Chicago’s economy is one of the largest in the nation, and is growing 1.8 percent per year. Although its economy bowed under pressures of the recession, GMP and retail sales are rising again as local conditions improve, though lag the national rate. The region's greatest strength lies in its diversification, which helps the area weather downturns in specific industries as other sectors counterbalance their impact.
Chicago's centralized location, educated work force and relatively affordable cost of living, compared to the coasts, attract many businesses. Today, 29 Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in the metro in industries ranging from finance to manufacturing.
The metro maintains a large concentration of financial companies, given its status as the headquarters of the seventh district of the Federal Reserve, the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The city also is a major global convention destination, as McCormick Place is one of the largest meeting facilities in the world, attracting a variety of trade shows and exhibitions.
The city of Chicago is generally flat, with the Chicago and Calumet rivers running through the municipality. The greatest growth in the Chicago metro over the past 20 years occurred in the western region. This area, with its flat terrain and fertile soil, has historically been dominated by agricultural uses. Year after year, developers continue to acquire farmland and convert it to commercial and residential uses.
The Chicago metro encompasses a 13-county region with more than 300 incorporated municipalities and a population of more than 9.5 million. While the CBD provides amenities common in large cities, the suburbs offer family-oriented neighborhoods. As a result, more than 40 percent of Illinois residents live in the suburbs of Chicago.