TTX joins major companies leaving Chicago

TTX joins major companies leaving Chicago

Rail car company TTX is heading for North Carolina, adding to the list of corporations formerly headquartered in Chicago. Companies such as McDonald’s and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange could be next.

Freight railroad car company TTX is moving its headquarters from Chicago’s West Loop to North Carolina. It adds to the growing list of corporate departures after Caterpillar, Citadel, Boeing, Tyson Foods and Guggenheim Partners.

The announcement came jointly from TTX and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, revealing the company will establish its new main office in Charlotte next year. The move creates 150 jobs and represents a $14.5 million investment by TTX.

Although TTX will transfer top executives from the current office at 101 N. Wacker Drive, there is a possibility some employees will remain in Chicago and work remotely.

TTX’s decision underscores a troubling trend of high-profile headquarters losses for Chicago and its surrounding suburbs. Last year major corporations such as Caterpillar, Citadel, Boeing and Tyson Foods announced relocations out of the Chicago area. Guggenheim Partners more quietly made moves to leave the city and join fellow investment firm Citadel in Miami.

North Carolina leaders said TTX can expect $1.8 million in tax subsidies during the next 12 years. The 613,631-square-foot office building at 101 N. Wacker Drive, which includes TTX, is currently 68% leased. This falls below the downtown office building average of 77% at the mid-year mark.

The list of departures could grow if Chicago Mercantile Exchange also leaves. CME CEO Terry Duffy said a clause in its lease states if taxes get worse, it could break its lease and leave its namesake city.

“In our leases, we have a language in there that says if there’s something that’s ill-conceived from the city or the state, that our leases are null and void,” Duffy said. “We’re in a very strong position. If we had to leave, we could leave.”

Duffy’s comments came within days of Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson taking office. Johnson floated the idea of a city financial transaction tax, but Gov J.B. Pritzker and the state would need to sign off.

Pritzker opposes the idea, but Johnson could pursue other taxes without approval from Springfield.

McDonald’s Corp. CEO Chris Kempczinski said last year staying in Chicago is far from a sure thing.

Chicago has had a few wins. Kellogg, Deere & Co. and Kimberly-Clark are all growing their footprint in the area. But overall, office vacancy downtown reached 22.6%, a record.

State and city leaders have plenty they could do about lowering taxes and regulations if they want to again welcome businesses instead of waving goodbye to corporations and their employees.

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