Few cities in North America offer as many opportunities to businesses involved in foreign trade as the financial and industrial powerhouse that is Chicago, recognized around the world as home to the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Beyond the financial sector, Chicago is also a city with extensive international ties. The city is home to fifty foreign consulates and economic development agencies that specialize in promoting trade between Illinois and foreign-owned companies around the world.
Business students in Illinois seem to recognize Chicago’s unique position as one of the world’s most vital hubs of international commerce, as the state’s business schools have reported an increase in the number of students declaring international business as their major. The state’s network of international trade and economic development agencies, and its well-established footing in the international marketplace help create a supportive business environment with great access to international business opportunities.
Illinois hosts 8 Foreign Trade Zones that offer special tariff and operational cost relief to businesses engaged in international trade. The largest of these trade zones is centered in Chicago, which is considered to be the nation’s transportation hub where all modes of freight transportation intersect. This hub links train lines with important Great Lake shipping lanes and air cargo to create an unparalleled shipping infrastructure. The Port of Chicago ships more than 26 million tons of goods to markets around the world each day and helps support 100,000 jobs in the state.
Illinois’ International Trade Partners
According to a 2010 report published by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, foreign exports from the state grew by a staggering $24 billion since 2002. Despite the wavering economy, Illinois exported over $50 billion in goods and services in 2010, a 20% increase over 2009. Illinois-based multinationals support the most export-related jobs in the Midwest, employing more than 600,000 workers and corporate professionals.
According to the International Trade Administration, Canada is Illinois’s top trade partner, having received more than $15 billion dollars in imports form the state in 2010. Mexico was second with $4 billion, followed by China with $3 billion.
International Business Jobs in Illinois
Illinois is home to more foreign-owned companies than any other state in the Midwest. According to the International Trade Administration, foreign-controlled companies employed 250,800 Illinois residents in 2009, the latest year for which records are available. While many of these businesses are concentrated in the Chicago metro area, according to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, there are more than 1,500 multinational firms with operations in over 5,000 locations across the state.
Abbott Laboratories, which has its headquarters in North Chicago, manufactures pharmaceutical products and medical devices and employs 12,000 engineers, research scientists, product developers and corporate professionals in the state, and has more than 90,000 total employees worldwide. Daimler Chrysler, a German-American automobile maker, employs more than 2,500 machinists, engineers, logistics and supply chain managers, operational mangers, and corporate staff at its Belvidere Assembly Plant.
These and many other multinationals with operations in the state are among Illinois’s leading employers of international business managers, marketing managers and international market research analysts, trade specialists and accountants versed in the International Financial Reporting Standards, among other international business professionals.
Making International Business Contacts in Illinois
Illinois has a network of trade organizations in place to help local businesses explore international business trade opportunities:
- International Trade Association of Greater Chicago
- Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity