Chicago Ranked Among World’s Most Competitive Cities for Business in New IBM Report

Chicago ranks among the World’s Most Competitive Cities in a new report released by IBM. Of the top 100 global cities, Chicago ranked in the top eight or better across the board, and fourth in financial services.Of 15 North American cities, Chicago was second in four categories, and third in software development. The overall high rankings reflect the diversity of the Chicago’s economy.

“I am pleased to receive this recognition for our efforts and that IBM has characterized Chicago as one of the top cities in the world in every category,” said Mayor Emanuel. “A report like this shows the opportunities we have with our diverse economy, talented workforce, world-class infrastructure and incredible quality of life. I will continue to foster growth and create jobs across Chicago so we maintain and improve this high standing in the global economy.”

“The World’s Most Competitive Cities report demonstrates the different strengths of the top international cities for business investment,” said Roel Spee, Global Leader IBM-Plant Location International. “Chicago is one of the global top performers in that it shows tremendous strength in nearly every sector measured, illustrating that the city is a premier location for different types of investment projects.”

The analysis replicates the strategic shortlisting process that companies often utilize when making location decisions. It takes qualitative measures such as business environment and quality of life, while also weighing quantitative cost factors.

The study looks at five investment types: international headquarters, shared services, software development, financial services and life sciences. Chicago ranked among the top 10 cities in the world in each of these functions.

Chicago Performance Global Rank North American Rank
International headquarters 7 2
Shared services center 6 2
Software development 8 2
Financial services 4 2
Life sciences R&D 7 2

In addition, IBM released a separate report, its Plant Location International annual Global Trends report, which summarizes global foreign direct investment (FDI) activity. The report showed a roughly 50% rise in the number of FDI projects for the Chicago area in 2012, making it the top US metro. Chicago’s increase, especially in financial and business services, placed it in front of New York and Atlanta for the #1 US ranking, #7 globally.

“WBC is currently implementing the Mayor’s Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs which aims at accelerating growth in key areas of Chicago’s economy,” said WBC President and CEO Jeff Malehorn. “The areas for which Chicago is recognized in both IBM reports, including international headquarters, business services, software development, financial services, life science and FDI are all key components of our Plan, demonstrating continued progress toward the Plan’s 10 transformative strategies.”

WBC provided data for both reports, which IBM utilized along with its own data for the comprehensive reports.

Site Selection/IBM World’s Most Competitive Cities report (54MB PDF)

IBM Global Location Trends report (250K PDF)


Chaired by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, World Business Chicago drives regional economic growth. WBC collaborates to create jobs, cultivate talent, and put Chicago at the forefront of the global economy. A unique public-private partnership, WBC engages business and community leaders to advance Chicago’s Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs.