Chicago’s woes are over-hyped
For a sense of what is thriving in Chicago, it is worth visiting the offices of Hazel Technologies, a firm based in Fulton Market, about a mile west of the city’s downtown Loop. Across most of one full floor of a fancy new office building, the usual desks and cubicles have been replaced by a laboratory. Around three dozen scientists use it to design prototypes of packets of chemicals that help keep fruit and vegetables fresh by controlling the creation of ethylene, a gas that induces ripening. On another floor, commercial staff sell the chemicals to clients all over the world. Hazel, founded in 2015 by three phd students at Northwestern University, in the northern suburbs, has grown in the past few years to over 100 employees. In 2021 it raised $70m in venture financing, and it now works in a dozen countries.
Few Chicagoans have heard of Hazel—even the city’s bigwigs are barely aware of it. And yet the West Loop district, where Fulton Market is, is bustling with new firms like this, quietly doing lucrative things. The workers they are hiring are filling up not only offices but also dozens of new apartment buildings. And more are coming. Across the street from Hazel’s offices, cranes are already working on turning what is currently a patch of wasteland into yet another shiny tower of glass and steel. Patrick Flynn, the firm’s co-founder, says even he is bemused by the pace of change around him. When he was a teenager in Chicago in the late 1990s, this far west of the Loop was an area you would be careful walking in at night at weekends, he says. Nowadays, the neighbourhood is so trendy it even has a branch of Soho House, an expensive London members’ club that reliably opens up anywhere in the world seen as hip by management consultants.
Read more at The Economist.