The pandemic did a lot to diminish the primacy of coastal cities as meccas for the brightest minds in tech. As tech work migrated from the office space to virtual space, suddenly the cost-benefit calculus of life in the tech centers completely changed. Paying sky-high rents stopped making sense: As tech workers fled San Francisco, one-bedroom apartments went from $3,300 a month to $2,400. Many techies went back to where they came from to be close to family and the familiar, while still keeping their paycheck. Now that the pandemic is ending, many aren’t eager to give up that life and go back to the office.
While Austin, Texas, Madison, Wisconsin, and Palm Beach, Florida, are getting their share of the tech diaspora, Chicago is also hoping to attract some of this talent. Mayor Lori Lightfoot, in her first post-pandemic trip, was in San Francisco last week making the case for her city to tech talent and investors.
“We are telling our story—jettisoning our Midwest modesty and talking about it,” Lightfoot tells me.
“We’re being very intentional about making sure that Chicago is part of the conversation for people who are starting to look around and say, ‘You know what? Maybe I don’t need to be on the West Coast and in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area’,” she says.
Unicorns in Chi Town
The pandemic has already brought 32 companies to Chicago, Lightfoot says. That total includes tech companies, also some life science (SOLVD Health) and logistics companies…