<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Chicago Business News - Money, Financial & Corporate News]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/business http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.com en-us Mon, 20 Oct 2014 17:54:42 -0500 Mon, 20 Oct 2014 17:54:42 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Microsoft Tech Conference to Come to Chicago]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 20:15:17 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/214*120/mccormick+place+chicago.jpg

A mega-tech conference is coming to Chicago this spring, officials announced Thursday.

Thousands of Microsoft’s brightest minds will unite at McCormick Place for the company’s Ignite event.

“Ignite is really the signature event we have for our business customers,” said Microsoft General Manager Julia White. “We are really happy it will be here in Chicago for the first time.”

It’s a major coup for tourism and technology in the city.

Microsoft says it will combine five of its annual tech conferences into a singular one event, set to be hosted at McCormick Place.

“The desirability of Chicago in general—the food, the entertainment, the sports—made it really ideal,” White said.

The conference is scheduled for May 4-8. It could bring as many as 20,000 people to the city and an estimated $47 million in spending.

“This is a testament to what has happened at McCormick Place and all the other strengths—our airport, our hotels, our entertainment, our restaurants and it plays to Chicago’s strengths,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The announcement was made at 1871, one of five startup incubators in Chicago. The newest, the Chicago Innovation Exchange, opened Thursday morning in Hyde Park.

The city’s growing tech sector is another reason Microsoft chose Chicago.

“We are recognizing it for what it is—a real technology hub,” White said. “Ignite is the first great partnership but I think there will be more.”

The Microsoft announcement comes on the heels of news that next year Chicago will host both the NFL Draft and the James Beard awards, events that were previously in New York.

So far, Microsoft's agreement with the city is for one year only.

“My goal is to make it an annual conference so they keep coming back,” Emanuel said.

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<![CDATA[Emanuel Brings Microsoft Ignite Conference to Chicago]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 17:32:15 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/microsoft3.JPG

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel continues to rack up tourism successes for the city. 

On Thursday, Emanuel announced that Microsoft would bring its "Ignite" conference would head to Chicago during the week of May 4-8, 2015. 

Ignite plays as something of a meta conference for Microsoft, who will combine a series of smaller conferences  -- TechEd, Microsoft Management Summit, The Exchange, SharePoint, Lync and Project -- into one. 

The conference, which will take place at the McCormick Place Convention Center, is expected to draw upward of 20,000 tech entrepreneurs, engineers and investors. 

It could be worth up to $47 million in revenue for the city. 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Teens Develop Brain-Teaser App, Garner Worldwide Attention]]> Fri, 10 Oct 2014 08:13:56 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/216*120/impossible+rush+app.jpg

Fifteen-year-old Austin Valleskey doesn't have his drivers license yet...but he already has a worldwide successful app.

A few months ago the suburban Chicago teen was contacted about an idea for an app by Australian Ben Pasternack, who is also 15.

"I thought it was cool," said the Wheaton Academy sophomore. "He asked if I wanted to make it into a game. I said sure, it's a Saturday, I've got a couple of hours."

And a few hours is all it took for Valleskey to create a prototype for Impossible Rush- a brain-teaser game.

"We didn't think much of it. We just wanted people to have fun with it," Valleskey said.

And people did.

The pair contacted a marketer who agreed to buy the app and the game's popularity skyrocketed.

With over 500,000 downloads at its peak, the app was ranked 16th in the U.S., 7th in Sweden and 18th in Australia, according to Business Insider.

Valleskey said he was in disbelief.

"It passed up Skype, Tinder, Netflix, all of these huge companies. It was crazy cool to me!" the teen told NBC Chicago Thursday. "It's a great thrill."

The young teen says he taught himself computer programming just one year ago during a road trip to Florida.

His parents shared his latest excitement.

"It's been just so much fun to see the success he's had with it," said Michael Valleskey. "He's learning so much going through this process."

Valleskey says he's already working on developing another app.

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<![CDATA[Allstate Raising Rates in Illinois]]> Wed, 08 Oct 2014 13:12:55 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/Allstate_tag_4color_hor.jpg

Allstate is upping its rates for customers in Illinois.

The Northbrook-based insurer will be increasing its car and home insurance rates in the state by an average of 3 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

Allstate spokeswoman Shaundra Turner Jones said the increase equates to an average of about $3 a month per auto policy and $10 a month per home policy.

“The reason for this change is to keep up with rising costs,” she said in a statement. “Customers are encouraged to talk with their local agent about discounts for which they may be eligible to help offset these increases, including our Full Pay discount and Easy Pay discounts, among many others. Customers can also work with their local agent to migrate to higher deductibles as a way to help keep premium costs lower.”

The increases, which are larger than ones implemented by the company in other states, both take effect this month-- The homeowners’ hike takes effect Oct. 27 while the car increase begins Thursday, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The insurance company is reportedly Illinois’ second-largest property and casualty carrier, following State Farm.

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<![CDATA[Target 5: Investigating the Issues That Affect You Most]]> Tue, 08 May 2012 14:57:53 -0500 ]]> <![CDATA[$martMoney]]> Tue, 08 May 2012 09:08:56 -0500 ]]> <![CDATA[Determining the Best Lease for Your Business]]> Tue, 07 Oct 2014 14:48:31 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/For+rent+generic+sign+722.jpg

As the No. 2 city in the country for fast-growing small businesses, Chicago has become the go-to place for entrepreneurs looking to launch new business ventures.

But before they can bring their big ideas to fruition, small business owners have to find a place to house their companies. One of the most common questions that come up when leasing office space is whether it’s better to sign a long-term or short-term lease.

This is especially important for small businesses whose success, or failure, could be at least partially dictated by this decision. While there’s no right answer – every company’s needs are different – there are certain advantages to each that, when carefully analyzed with the help of a commercial broker, can help steer businesses toward the best option.

Benefits of a long-term lease include:

  • Stability – If you find your dream location, a long-term lease (typically five years or more) ensures you’ll be able to stay there for an extended period of time, even if your building is sold. Short-term tenants (one to five years) risk being forced out of their space unexpectedly, inconveniencing customers and employees and jeopardizing the future of their business.
  • Predictability – Tenants that sign a long-term lease know how much their rent will increase from year to year, regardless of market conditions. By comparison, companies that sign a short-term agreement could see their real estate costs soar each year, hampering growth.
  • Tenant Improvements/Concessions – Landlords are often more willing to give tenant improvement allowances and other concessions like free rent to tenants that sign long-term leases. These aren’t off the table for short-term tenants, but they may be more difficult to negotiate.

Short-term leases are attractive for the following reasons:

 

  • Flexibility – Tenants that need to scale up or down, or move to a new location altogether, are easily able to do so with a short-term lease. Conversely, long-term tenants would either need to sublease or transfer their lease to another tenant in order to relocate.
  • An “Easy Out” – It’s estimated that eight out of 10 businesses fail within 18 months of opening. Unlike long-term leases, which leave tenants on the hook for unpaid rent if they ever go out of business, short-term leases allow entrepreneurs to cut their losses and move on if a business venture fails to take off.

One alternative to a traditional short-term lease is shared office space, which allows businesses of all sizes to rent space on an annual or month-to-month basis. In addition to offering amenities like conference rooms and cafeterias, as well as a full support staff to assist with back-office functions, these centers make it easy for tenants to add space as their businesses grow or reduce their footprint during down periods.

Another option is to sign a short-term lease with several renewal options. For example, a tenant who inks a three-year lease could have an option to renew for an additional year or two – often at a higher rate – after the initial term expires. Doing so allows tenants to have the best of both worlds by remaining in their existing location if business is going well or relocating to another location (without penalty) if they run into problems with their landlord or simply want a change of scene.

Frank Chalupa is president and co-founder of Amata Office Centers, Chicago’s largest privately owned office suites provider. Founded in 2002, Amata offers an array of full- and part-time office solutions to businesses of all sizes. With six locations to choose from in downtown Chicago, including the company’s newest center at 150 S. Wacker Drive, Amata offers flexible terms that allow businesses to change and grow as needed. Learn more at amataoffices.com.

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<![CDATA[Employee vs. Independent Contractor: Avoid Misclassification]]> Tue, 07 Oct 2014 14:41:59 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/212*120/Money_generic.jpg

Since the economic downturn began in 2008, companies have been creatively looking to “trim the fat” when it comes to expenses.

The recession, coupled with increased business regulations and health care reform has led businesses to continue expense-minimization efforts.

One way this has been achieved is by classifying workers as independent contractors rather than employees. The cost advantage of this is that you aren’t responsible for providing them with certain perks (healthcare benefits) and you don’t have to pay employment taxes on their wages. But because this is a way of avoiding certain taxes, this is something that is highly monitored and regulated by the IRS. We all know that Uncle Sam needs his money and that the IRS is there to ensure that businesses are giving their just due to the government.

With that being said, companies found to be misclassifying their employees are leaving themselves open to receive a hefty civil fine of up to $25,000 per event PLUS potential back employment taxes.

So how do you know if you’re misclassifying your employees? Here are the three factors that the IRS uses:

  • Behavioral Control – To what extent do you control how the worker performs the work? If you are directing how work is accomplished, providing training, giving instructions, etc. the worker may be seen as an employee. This factor is all about asking how much autonomy does the worker have and how much are you controlling the “who, what, when, where, and how” of his work.
  • Financial Control – To what extent do you control the financial aspects of the work? If you are purchasing the tools necessary for the work to be done and/or reimbursing the incurred expenses of the worker, the worker may be seen to be an employee. Likewise, the IRS looks to see if the independent contractor is able to realize profits or losses in the performance of duties. If the worker can incur no losses, he/she can be viewed as an employee.
  • Relationship of the Parties – How do the parties view the relationship? Here the IRS looks at how permanent the relationship is, if the worker receives any benefits (i.e. insurance), and what business relationship was intended (as shown by written contracts).

These three factors are all taken into account and the IRS looks at the whole situation to determine if a worker is an employee or independent contractor. Being aware of the test the IRS uses can help you in avoiding the misclassification of workers and the penalties that comes along with it.

Jamal Jackson, JD/MBA is a corporate attorney licensed in the State of Illinois. He is the Managing Partner of Jackson Corporate Law Offices, Co-Founder of Initiative Consulting Group, LLC, and a Public/Motivational Speaker engaging audiences in the topic areas of Business, Leadership, and Legacy (www.JamalEJackson.com).

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<![CDATA[Fans Line Up for Final Hot Doug's Taste]]> Fri, 03 Oct 2014 10:44:42 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/hot-dougs-line.jpg 10/03/14: NBC Chicago's Regina Waldroup was outside Hot Doug's Friday morning talking to hot dog and sausage lovers hoping to get in on the last of the action.]]> <![CDATA[McDonald's Launches Squid Ink Burger]]> Thu, 02 Oct 2014 17:24:42 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/2D274906915346-mcdonaldssquidinkburger.blocks_desktop_small.jpg

Trick or treat?

McDonald’s isn’t letting Burger King have the only spooky burger.

McDonald’s Japan has launched a Halloween-themed “Squid Ink Burger,” sporting black-dyed buns and a “squid ink sauce.”

The burger, which costs $3.40, also features two beef patties, cheese and fried onions.

The company said the squid ink sauce was added to a chipotle sauce with a smoked flavor and pungent taste to give it “the flavor of squid ink.”

It is the second black burger to hit the market in Japan after Burger King Japan launched the Kuro Burger.

The Kuro Burger, "kuro" meaning "black" in Japanese, features bread and cheese colored using bamboo charcoal and a black sauce, which has a soy and a garlic base, turned a shade of ebony using squid ink.

The Kuro Burger, also dubbed the “goth burger,” is scheduled to end in early November.

While both burgers were launched as limited-time Halloween treat, they might be too spooky for many to bite into.



Photo Credit: McDonald's Japan]]>
<![CDATA[Hot Doug's Owner Doug Sohn Reveals Plans for Auction]]> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 11:13:34 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Doug_Sohn.jpg

Fans sporting a Hot Doug’s tattoo may already have a piece of the famous encased meat eatery with them forever, but for those not brave enough to ink their love for the Avondale hot dog stand, there may be another way to walk away with a sausage souvenir.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Hot Doug’s owner Doug Sohn said he plans to auction off meaty memorabilia for charity. Details on when and where have not yet been revealed, but fans are sure to be chomping at the bit to take home part of the beloved restaurant at Roscoe and California.

Sohn also left some hope for fans as he prepares to serve his last Hot Doug’s meal Friday.

In the interview, Sohn noted that a pop-up restaurant isn’t off the table following the shocking closure of the beloved restaurant at Roscoe and California.

"I haven’t ruled that out," he said. "Like a one-night charity thing. Not saying I would, but I’d consider that."

Lines at the Avondale restaurant are longer than ever leading up the “permanent vacation.”

The hot dog stand has generated what some have called "cult fandom."

A man even proposed at the restaurant and had owner Doug Sohn ordain his wedding, and a number of followers got tattoos when it was announced that Sohn would give free meals for life to the questionable souls who inked their loyalty.

The restaurant will even live on in a movie as filmmakers plan to document its final days.

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<![CDATA[Madigan Opens Investigation Into Jimmy John's Breach]]> Thu, 25 Sep 2014 10:42:17 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/jimmy-johns-store.jpg

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Thursday warned residents who made purchases with their credit or debit cards at Jimmy John's to immediately be on the lookout for unauthorized charges on their accounts.

“Identity theft is a serious threat to consumers," Madigan said. "It’s critical to start incorporating extra precautions in your daily routine to limit the damage done as a result of a data breach.”

Madigan has opened an investigation into the security breach at 216 of the Champaign-based company's restaurants.
 
Jimmy John's said Wednesday that stores in 37 states, including Illinois, were affected by the breach that occurred between June 16 and Sept. 5.

It appears customers' credit and debit card data was compromised after someone stole log-in credentials from a point-of-sale vendor, and used the information to remotely access the systems at the individual stores, company officials said.

The security issue has been contained and the company said customers can continue using their credit and debit cards securely at Jimmy John’s stores. Third-party forensic experts have been brought in to assist with the investigation.

The restaurant chain is offering credit protection services to customers impacted by the breaks. Call 1-855-398-6442 for more information.
 
Madigan said Illinois residents also can call her office’s Identity Theft Hotline at 1-866-999-5630 for assistance.

Affected Chicago-area stores include:

    Chicago, 3234 W. Foster Ave.
    Chicago, 6451 W. Diversey Ave
    Chicago, 3328 North Clark St.
    Chicago, 1101 S. Canal St. Ste.
    Oakbrook Terrace, IL 18W 048 22nd St
    Glen Ellyn, 850 Roosevelt Rd.
    Homer Glen, 14110 Bell Rd.
    Naperville,19 W. Jefferson Ave.
    Lombard, 1235 South Main St
    Lombard, 2770 S. Highland Ave.
    Evergreen Park, 9451 S. Kedzie Ave.

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<![CDATA[Twitter Analysis Ranks Best and Worst Airlines]]> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 10:24:53 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/United-Continental-merger.jpg

Apparently, United Airlines travelers are uniting over their disappointment with the airline via Twitter.

According to recent data from text analysis startup Luminoso, the Chicago-based company has received some of the most complaints via social media.

An article on re/code reports Luminoso “used natural language processing technology to analyze more than 157,000 tweets directly mentioning five airplane handles” during the month of August to look at five major airlines, including United, jetBlue, American Airlines, Virgin America and Delta Airlines.

The results showed Virgin Airlines passengers were most pleased with their travels, followed by
jetBlue, Delta and American, while United Airlines customers complained more than others.

United had the lowest overall rating, with last-place rankings in categories like “delays/ cancellations” and “luggage,” but the results don’t necessarily mean United Airlines is the worst carrier.

The analysis is only a reflection of social media users’ sentiments over a short period of time, the study explains, and the results can easily be affected by weather or other news.

While the study may not show customer satisfaction on a large-scale level, it is clear that social media is being used by customers more frequently, and companies should pay attention to the feedback they receive on these sites.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Airline Celebrates O'Hare Launch With $29 Airfare]]> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 18:32:54 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_042914_frontier.jpg

To celebrate the launch of its domestic service from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, Frontier Airlines is offering discounted tickets for one day only.

The fares go as low as $29 for one-way tickets from O’Hare to Atlanta, Cleveland, Denver, Orlando, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Washington, D.C.      

The airline's inaugural flight to Washington took off Monday, and Frontier soon will offer non-stop flights to the above seven cities.

Frontier said the special demonstrates the company's commitment to "low fares done right."

Tickets must be purchased by 10:59 p.m. Monday for domestic, nonstop travel on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from Sept. 22, 2014, through Jan. 28, 2015. They can be purchased at FlyFrontier.com or by calling Frontier's reservations centers.

Blackout dates apply, and previously purchased tickets cannot be exchanged for special-fare tickets, according to the airline.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[McDonald's Is Giving Away Free Coffee Every Morning for Two Weeks]]> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 13:14:58 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/McDonalds13.jpg

McDonald’s is kicking off its second national Free Coffee Event Sept. 16 and cutting off the free java on International Coffee Day, Sept. 29.

In a statement released last week, McDonald’s announced that participating restaurants across the country will give guests a free small McCafé coffee for a two-week period during regular breakfast hours.

“We know our guests are busy, especially during the morning, and a free cup of coffee goes a long way in helping get their days started," said Greg Watson, the McDonald’s executive who oversees menu innovation.

McDonald’s costumers can also “sip and tell” their embarrassing pre-coffee moments on social media using the hashtag #SipandTell and @McCafe for chances to win custom gifts and other surprises.

Starting in early 2015, McCafé fans can drink their coffee at home, too. The fast-food chain recently announced it would collaborate with Kraft to offer McCafé ground, whole bean and single-cup coffees in grocery stores nationwide, joining retailers like Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks in selling branded packaged coffee.

McDonald’s first-ever Free Coffee Event was launched in March 2014, when the company gave away millions of cups of free coffee across the country.
 



Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
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<![CDATA[McDonald's Expands "Build-Your-Own-Burger" Test]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 21:18:03 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/179*120/mcdonalds+burger.jpg

Amid reports that younger generations are favoring fast-casual restaurants like Chipotle, McDonald’s is expanding its fast and casual way of ordering.

The Orange County Register reports that the world’s largest hamburger chain quietly served up the “build your own burger” ordering test to four more California restaurants.

The initial ordering test began in 2013 at locations in California and Illinois.

Earlier this year, Kevin Newell, U.S. brand and strategy officer for McDonald’s, said in an interview that the offering was a “huge driver,” but it remained unclear if the test could translate across the company’s broad network of restaurants.

McDonald’s culinary executive Dan Coudreaut told the Register the Oak Brook-based company is looking to see if customers will accept the new ordering system and that officials are hoping to see if customers are “willing to pay more” and give more time for a premium fast-casual style burger.

The program reportedly allows dine-in customers to choose from 22 different ingredients, including caramelized onions, grilled mushrooms, red onions, pepper jack cheese, thick cut apple-wood smoked bacon and sliced jalapenos.

A touch-screen tablet is used as a self-checkout option.

The Register reports a standard build-your-own burger costs 90 cents more than a Big Mac, with extra add-ons increasing the cost. The finished product, which takes approximately six minutes to make, is delivered by a server dressed in a black and white pin-striped apron.

It was not immediately clear if the company plans to expand the burger ordering system nationally.

News of the expansion comes after a report that millennials are choosing to eat at restaurants like Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and Five Guys Holdings LLC, dubbed “fast-casual” eateries.

The report indicates younger diners are seeking out healthier options and customizable menus.

McDonald’s has already attempted to make waves in the younger market, once a prominent audience for the chain, by introducing healthier options and debuting apps and mobile pay options.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[McDonald's Trademarks Term "McBrunch"]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 15:49:09 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/mcdonalds8.jpg

Craving a McGriddle at noon? Enter the “McBrunch.”

McDonald’s has filed a federal trademark registration for the term “McBrunch,” indicating a possible new meal program for the world’s largest hamburger chain.

While McDonald’s has not yet announced plans for a “McBrunch,” company spokesperson Terri Hickey said speculation about the concept is “entirely premature.”

“We routinely file intent to use trademark applications as a regular course of business,” Hickey told NBC Chicago. “We can’t share details at this time as to how the trademarks may or may not be used.”

News of the “McBrunch” was first reported by BurgerBusiness, which claims the Oak Brook-based fast food chain filed a trademark registration for the term in July.

This comes after a report that millennials aren’t munching on McDonald’s as much as they used to.

The company has also been working to build its breakfast component, stating that the meal program makes up roughly 20 percent of U.S. sales.
 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[2 Chicago Writers Join List of World's Top-Earning Authors]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 11:55:48 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Gone-Girl-Ben-Affleck.011714_copy.jpg

Two Chicago writers have joined the ranks of Forbes' top-earning authors in the world.

Veronica Roth, author of the “Divergent” trilogy, tied with three other top authors (Jeff Kinney, John Grisham and Stephen King) for sixth with a listed earning of $17 million.

Gillian Flynn, whose thriller “Gone Girl” hits the big screen next month, tied with ”The Fault in Our Stars” author John Green for No. 12 with a listed earning of $9 million. Green also made his debut on the list.

"In a ranking long-dominated by stalwarts like crime writer James Patterson and romance author Nora Roberts, these fresh ink spillers, two of whom write young adult fiction, rank thanks to the increasing commercial appeal of teen literature for readers of all ages," Natalie Robehmed writes for Forbes.

The top spots still go to well-known names. James Patterson leads the pack with $90 million, followed by Dan Brown with $28 million, Nora Roberts with $23 million and Danielle Steel with $22 million.

JK Rowling finished No. 8 with $14 million, and George R.R. Martin ranked No. 9 with $12 million.

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<![CDATA[50 Protesters Detained in Minimum Wage Rallies]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 16:49:18 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/McDonalds_arrests_9-4.jpg

Protests on Chicago's South Side and in Cicero resulted in 50 arrests Thursday.

Nineteen protesters were detained and cited Thursday morning after blocking an intersection at West 87th and South State streets in a continued fight for an increased minimum wage.

The assembly was among about 150 such protests planned around the nation. The fast food industry workers and their supporters want the ability to form a union and a minimum hourly pay of $15 per hour.

"We're definitely on the upward movement because we feel justice is on our side. They keep saying, 'Wait.' We can't wait. ComEd raised their rates three months ago. Food prices are constantly going up, and so we feel that we cannot wait. We're struggling to put food on the tables for our kids," said Douglas Hunter. "We work at a McDonald's at a restaurant where we can't even afford to eat the food that we sell, and we think this is ridiculous in a country as rich as America."

Protesters began gathering early Thursday morning with an official event kicking off at about 8:30 a.m. It started peacefully but some then blocked the roadway and ignored officers' calls to disperse. Some were seen being placed into squad cars.

Around 300 protesters held another rally later in the day in Cicero at 29th and Cicero Avenue.

Cicero Police say 31 people were arrested and charged for disrupting traffic and placing themselves in harm's way. The protesters reportedly sat in the center of the road and blocked traffic.

A city-issued news release said Cicero Town President Larry Dominick and other local leaders support the state's efforts to raise the minimum wage and offered to work with the demonstrators to find a safter place to protest, but organizers refused.

The "Fight for 15" campaign has the support of The Service Employees International Union and several politicians, including Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who planned on join a protest outside a McDonald's restaurant near West 29th Street and South Cicero Avenue after midday.

In a statement, McDonald's corporate spokeswoman Lisa McComb said the company supports paying "fair wages aligned with a competitive marketplace," adding that any increase needs to be considered in a broad context that considers "the impact of the Affordable Care Act and its definition of "full time" employment, as well as the treatment, from a tax perspective, of investments made by businesses owners."

"It's important to know approximately 90 percent of our U.S. restaurants are independently owned and operated by franchisees who set wages according to job level and local and federal laws," McComb said. "McDonald's does not determine wages set by our more than 3,000 U.S. franchisees."

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for city contractors and subcontractors to $13/hour.

Gov. Pat Quinn supports raising the state's minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to at least $10 per hour. He vowed to live this week on minimum wage, telling reporters he's eating graham crackers for dinner.

President Barack Obama signed an executive order earlier this year to raise the wage for federal contractors.


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<![CDATA[Emanuel Signs Minimum Wage Executive Order]]> Wed, 03 Sep 2014 21:52:39 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/rahm-minimum-wage.jpg

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday signed an executive order requiring city contractors and subcontractors to pay employees a $13-an-hour minimum wage.

Officials said it will apply to city contractors advertised after Oct. 1 and will affect about 1,000 contracted employees. Those would include landscapers, maintenance workers, security officers and custodial workers.

"It creates a floor so you can afford a family and be able to give your children the life that they deserve," Emanuel said at Environmental Design International, at 33 West Monroe Street.

The mayor in July introduced a city ordinance that would gradually increase the minimum wage in Chicago to $13 an hour. The action drew praise from the president of SEIU Local 1, Tom Balanoff.

A panel called the Minimum Wage Working Group said the higher wages would increase earnings for about 410,000 people -- or 31 percent of Chicago workers -- and inject nearly $800 million into the Chicago economy.

Gov. Pat  Quinn supports raising the state's minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to at least $10 per hour. He vowed to live this week on minimum wage, telling reporters he's eating graham crackers for dinner.

President Barack Obama signed an executive order earlier this year to raise the wage for federal contractors.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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<![CDATA[Garrett Popcorn Sued Over "Chicago Mix"]]> Tue, 02 Sep 2014 15:14:33 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/246*120/garretts+edit.jpg

Chicagoans who are fans of Garrett Popcorn won’t be calling one of the gourmet popcorn shop’s most popular mixes the “Chicago Mix” anymore.

The popcorn icon is among three companies targeted in lawsuits from Candyland Inc., a St. Paul-based company that filed federal trademark infringement lawsuits last month.

The suit alleges the companies have wrongly branded their popcorn confections Chicago Mix, which the company trademarked in 1992.

Also named in the suits are Waukegan-based Cornfields Inc. and O-ke-doke popcorn maker Snyder’s-Lance Inc.

In the suit, Candyland claims it requested the companies stop using the name, but none did.

“It’s the larger companies that don’t want to,” said Candyland Co-Owner Brenda Lamb. “They’re the ones we’re having issues with.”

Garrett Popcorn, owned by CaramelCrisp LLC, says it is currently changing the name of its Chicago Mix to Garrett Mix, a process they say they started before the lawsuit was filed.

“Garrett Popcorn Shops is expanding into new markets and proactively started transitioning away from calling its world famous CheeseCorn and CaramelCrisp flavor ‘Chicago Mix’ to the more ownable ‘Garrett Mix,’” the company said in a statement. “And this transition began prior to any lawsuit due to countless brands now using the Chicago Mix name on what Garrett Popcorn Shops feels is a product vastly inferior to ours. These are mostly pre-packed brands found in supermarkets and drug stores. No matter the name – no one in the world delivers Handcrafted Happiness the way we do.”

The shop’s website now features their trademarked “Garrett Mix” where Chicago Mix once was.

While Garrett’s recipe includes caramel and cheese popcorn, Candyland’s Chicago Mix adds in traditionally seasoned popcorn.

Lamb said it’s not the recipe that’s the problem, it’s the name.

“It’s a matter of they’re taking a name," she said. "They’re using a name that they shouldn’t be because we’re the ones that have it federally trademarked."

As for why the Minnesota company chose to name the signature mix after Chicago, Lamb said it was more of a marketing strategy, calling Chicago the “popcorn capital of the U.S.”

“I didn’t know it was going to be a problem,” she said. “If you called it St. Paul or Minneapolis people out of state might not have paid attention. I thought it would be much more noticed when I put the name on it.”

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<![CDATA[Market Basket Board OKs $1.5 Billion Sale to Ousted CEO]]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 22:49:32 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Market+Basket.jpg

Market Basket's board of directors has signed a deal to sell the grocery chain to former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas for more than $1.5 billion, following months of massive employee protests and customer boycotts over his June ouster.

Market Basket and Arthur T. Demoulas confirmed just after 11 p.m. that shareholders had agreed to a deal to give Arthur T.'s faction a majority stake — 50.5 percent ownership — in the company. Sources had previously confirmed the deal to NECN's Josh Brogadir and Peter Howe.

"Effective immediately, Arthur T. Demoulas is returning to Market Basket with day-to-day operational authority of the company," the company and new owner said in a statement.

Employees and customers started a boycott earlier this summer after Demoulas' firing, leading to bare shelves and little business for the New England supermarket chain.

Current co-CEOs Felicia Thorton and Jim Gooch are staying in place pending the closing, which is expected to happen in the next several months. Arthur T. and his management team are returning during the interim period as the company's purchased is finished, the statement said. Arthur T. also said that all employees are welcome back to work to help "restore the Company back to normal operations."

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan said in a joint statement they are "delighted that the parties have reached agreement on terms of sale and resolution of operating authority, so that employees can return to work and customers once again will be able to rely on these stores to meet their needs."

Market Basket's board of directors fired Arthur T. and two other top executives on June 23. On July 15, executives at the company's headquarters in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, started calling for Arthur T.'s reinstatement. More than 2,000 employees rallied outside of Market Basket's headquarters on July 18, and the company fired eight employees who led the demonstration two days later. The rallies spread to the stores the next day, and continued at stores and headquarters for weeks.

The board of directors said in a statement late Wednesday that their shared goal now "is to return Market Basket to the supermarket that its customers have come to rely on for service, quality and best prices."

"We look forward to seeing you at your local Market Basket," the statement reads.

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<![CDATA["Millennial" Market Not Lovin' McDonald's: Report]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 13:51:11 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/McDonalds-Blitz-Box.jpg

It looks like millennials aren’t munching on McDonald’s as much as they used to.

Customers in their 20s and 30s are choosing to dine elsewhere, particularly at “fast-casual” restaurants like Chipotle and Five Guys, according to demographics reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The report indicates younger diners are seeking out healthier options and customizable menus, creating a hurdle for McDonald's as it grapples with one of its worst slumps in the last decade.

According to the data, the percentage of customers age 19 to 21 who visited McDonald’s monthly has fallen by 12.9 percentage points since 2011, and the percentage of customers age 22 to 37 visiting the chain in the same period stayed flat.

In turn, the percentage of customers in those age groups visiting fast-casual restaurants monthly during that same time period grew by 2.3 and 5.2 percentage points.

It’s a trend that the world’s largest hamburger chain has been trying to overcome after a reported global decline.

The Illinois-based chain reported earlier this month that a key sales figure fell 2.5 percent in July, due in part to persistent weakness in the U.S.

While the company attributes a 7.3 drop in an international unit encompassing Asia, the Middle East and Africa to a recent food safety scandal in China, changing food habits could be the culprit for the 3.2 percent drop in the U.S.

Chains like Chipotle, for instance, are gaining favor by touting more wholesome ingredients and the ability to customize food.

Last month, McDonald’s ranked last for burger taste in a Consumer Reports survey of 32,405 subscribers. Respondents in the survey continuously favored the so-called fast casual restaurants over some of the mega-chains like McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Burger King.

“Fast-casual dining in places like Chipotle and Panda Express lets the consumer guide the staff to prepare their meal just the way they like it,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a food-service research and consulting firm that compiled the data for the Wall Street Journal.

McDonald’s is attempting to make waves in the younger market, once a prominent audience for the chain, by introducing healthier options and debuting apps and mobile pay options.

McDonald’s Global Chief Brand Officer Steve Easterbrook told the Wall Street Journal the millennial generation is “promiscuous in their brand loyalty,” making it more difficult to earn their loyalty. 

Easterbrook cited a wider range of choices for the shift in preference for younger generations.

The chain has also noted menu issues and cited financial struggles for lower-income customers as reasons for the U.S. drop.

McDonald's CEO Don Thompson said the company complicated its menu and slowed down service by introducing too many items too quickly. He said the company is working on getting the basics right — such as improving service.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA["Millennial" Market Not Lovin' McDonald's: Report]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 11:02:57 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/McDonalds-Blitz-Box.jpg

It looks like millennials aren’t munching on McDonald’s as much as they used to.

According to demographics reported by the Wall Street Journal, customers in their 20s and 30s are choosing to dine elsewhere, particularly at “fast-casual” restaurants like Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and Five Guys Holdings LLC.

The report indicates younger diners are seeking out healthier options and customizable menus, causing a hurdle for McDonald's as it grapples with one of its worst slumps in the last decade.

According to the data, the percentage of customers age 19 to 21 who visited McDonald’s monthly has fallen by 12.9 percentage points since 2011 and the percentage of customers age 22 to 37 visiting the chain in the same period remained stagnant.

In turn, the percentage of customers in those age groups visiting fast-casual restaurants monthly during that same time period grew by 2.3 and 5.2 percentage points.

It’s a trend that the world’s largest hamburger chain has been trying to overcome after a reported global decline.

The Oak Brook-based chain reported earlier this month that a key sales figure fell 2.5 percent in July, due in part to persistent weakness in the U.S.

While the company attributes a 7.3 drop in an international unit encompassing Asia, the Middle East and Africa to a recent food safety scandal in China, changing food habits could be the culprit for the 3.2 percent drop in the U.S.

Chains like Chipotle, for instance, are gaining favor by touting more wholesome ingredients and the ability to customize food.

Last month, McDonald’s ranked last for burger taste in a Consumer Reports survey of 32,405 subscribers. Respondents in the survey continuously favored the so-called fast casual restaurants over some of the mega-chains like McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Burger King.

“Fast-casual dining in places like Chipotle and Panda Express lets the consumer guide the staff to prepare their meal just the way they like it,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a food-service research and consulting firm that compiled the data for the Wall Street Journal.

McDonald’s is attempting to make waves in the younger market, once a prominent audience for the chain, by introducing healthier options and debuting apps and mobile pay options.

McDonald’s Global Chief Brand Officer Steve Easterbrook told the Wall Street Journal the millennial generation is “promiscuous in their brand loyalty,” making it more difficult to earn their loyalty.
Easterbrook cited a wider range of choices for the shift in preference for younger generations.

The chain has also noted menu issues and cited financial struggles for lower-income customers as reasons for the U.S. drop.

McDonald's CEO Don Thompson said the company complicated its menu and slowed down service by introducing too many items too quickly. He said the company is working on getting the basics rights — such as improving service.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Company Peddles Soda "Pot"]]> Mon, 25 Aug 2014 10:34:14 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/soda-pot.jpg 08/25/14: A bottler in Washington is using that state's new marijuana law to create a new category of THC treats. Reggie Aqui from NBC station KGW reports.]]> <![CDATA[Spotlight: Grainger's Paul Miller]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 15:20:04 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Paul-Miller-Grainger.jpg Grainger may be an 85-year-old company, but VP of eCommerce, Paul Miller, shows how the company manages to innovate in a digital world.]]> <![CDATA[What the Workplace Could Look Like in 2022]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 14:20:54 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/employmentgeneric.jpg

The future of the workplace could look a lot more like 1984.

Consulting firm PwC published its predictions for work in 2022 and some of the outcomes, while jarring, might not be too far-fetched.

Based on interviews with 500 human resource experts and 10,000 people in China, India, Germany, the UK and the U.S., the report details how developments in the workplace will affect the future of people management.

Researchers from PwC and the James Martin Institute for Science and Civilisation at the Said Business School in Oxford have projected three possible workplace developments which they call “three worlds of work.”

One world, titled the “Blue World,” predicts big company capitalism rules as organization continues to grow bigger and individual preferences trump beliefs about social responsibility.

“The data profiling that drives customer management will increasingly be replicated among employees as screening and monitoring move to a new level,” researchers wrote. “Sensors check their location, performance and health. The monitoring may even stretch into their private lives in an extension of today’s drug tests.”

Among the monitoring of private lives would be frequent health screenings to allow “real-time monitoring of health, with proactive health guidance and treatment to enable staff to perform more efficiently, reduce sick leave and work for more years before needing to retire.”

Researchers suggest that in exchange for handing over such data to employers, employees will have better job security.

This dystopian prediction might not be such a far-fetched idea when considering the monitoring technological advances have allowed and will continue to allow as innovation continues.

The study found that three out of 10 participants, many of them younger in age, would be happy for their employers to have access to their personal data and 44 percent of survey respondents felt the most important thing in a job was job security.

Other “worlds” listed in the study include the “Green World,” which predicts consumers and employees will force change, encouraging companies to develop a “powerful social conscience and green sense of responsibility” and the “Orange World,” where global business fragment and technology empowers a “low impact, high-tech business model.”

“The effectiveness with which your organization plans people management for the long-term will be critical to its long-term viability, ensuring you have the right people, with the right skills, in the right places to realize your evolving goals. Think too much in the short-term and you may find yourself on the back foot, unable to catch up with sudden shifts in your marketplace,” researchers wrote.

While it’s not clear which world, if any, will become the new workplace, researchers suggest that the need to adapt will be key to any company’s survival.

"No exploration of the future of work could ever be definitive," Michael Rendell, head of PwC, wrote in the study. "Indeed, one of the defining characteristics of our age is its ability to surprise and confound. However, while things happen that we cannot predict, we can still be prepared."



Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS]]>
<![CDATA[2013 Marathon Economic Impact Exceeded $250M]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 11:45:30 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chi+marathon+start.jpg

The 2013 Bank of America Chicago Marathon generated more than $253 million worth of economic activity for the area, race officials announced Thursday.

It was the first time in the marathon's 36 years that business activity exceeded $250 million. The 2012 race, by comparison, brought $243.46 million worth of activity to the local economy.

"Exceeding $250 million for the first time underscores not only the significance of the economic and tourist activity the race brings to the city, but also supports the fact that the Marathon has a personal connection to everyone involved, whether a runner, spectator, business owner, or charity," Tim Maloney, the president Bank of America Illinois, said in a written statement.

The independent study of the 2013 race, conducted by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Regional Economics Applications Laboratory, found it directly contributed to an estimated
$101.8 million to Chicago's tourism industry.

Don Welsh, the president of Choose Chicago, the city's tourism arm, called the marathon a "demand generator that helps foster increased visitation from around the globe, adding that 25 percent of visitors to the city for the 2013 race were in Chicago for the first time.

"Fifty six percent of participants say their motivation was to run through one of the most beautiful cities in the world," he said.

The 2013 race drew 40,900 race participants, with 17 percent of them coming from areas outside the United States.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chicago Ranks Second for Fast-Growing Businesses]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 16:36:50 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chicago+skyline+generic.jpg

Chicagoans mean business.

They mean so much business that city companies snagged 95 spots on the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing private companies, second only to New York’s 205.

Chicago beat out top start-up hubs like San Francisco, which was ranked No. 7 with 63 companies. The second-place ranking is a step up for the city after coming in fourth last year.

Rounding out the top five cities on the list were Atlanta, Austin, Texas and San Diego.

California-based Fuhu, maker of an Android tablet for kids, took the number one spot for the second year in a row thanks to a growth rate of 158,957 percent over the last three years, a rare feat for the Inc. 5000.

This year's rankings are considered to be one of the most competitive in the list's history with companies needing to achieve a minimum of 918.59 percent in sales growth in the last three years.

The highest ranking Windy City company was MAX Digital, developer of a cloud-based marketing and retailing software for automotive dealers, which was ranked at No. 51 for a three-year growth rate of 5,483 percent. The company recorded a revenue of $6.6 million in 2013.

"Thanks to a great team we have been able to provide cutting edge technologies that are transforming traditional industry in consumer centric ways," said MAX Digital Founder and CEO Pat Ryan. "We look forward to even greater growth and innovation in the years ahead."

MAX Digital was also the third-fastest growing software company on the list.

"It's a tribute to the great work ethic and opportunities in the city of Chicago that has made them thrive on this very competitive list,"  Inc. Media President and Editor In Chief Eric Schurenberg said in a statement. " What surprises me, even though I know it’s coming, is the sheer variety of the paths our entrepreneurs take to success, thematically reflecting how our economy has evolved."

Eight other city companies ranked among the top 500 on the list, including:

  1. Insureon (No. 107)
  2. Paramount Lodging Advisors (No. 188)
  3. Protein Bar (No. 200)
  4. Restaurantware (No. 366)
  5. AKTA (No. 414)
  6. Response Team 1 (No. 422)
  7. RIPT Apparel (No. 441)
  8. Framework Communications (No. 442)

In addition to the nine Chicago companies, 10 suburban companies were listed among the top 500, with Elgin-based Compass Automation leading the group at no. 55.

Following Compass Automation was:

  1. LaunchPoint (No. 100)
  2. Market6 (No. 143)
  3. Total Technology Solutions Group (No. 148)
  4. Forte International Tax (No. 167)
  5. Blue Star Tec (HNo. 221)
  6. Ameez Technologies (No. 370)
  7. Four Seasons Home Services (No. 393)
  8. Startex Industries (No. 397)
  9. Strategic Mobility Group (No. 496)

Howard Tullman, CEO of Chicago's 1871 tech incubator, said the results confirm Chicago is a "prime place for entrepreneurs."

The Inc results confirm that we're building solid businesses, creating "innovative products and services that are generating steady revenue, adding new jobs, and fostering growth across the economy," he said in a statement.

Illinois ranked sixth for states with the most companies on the list, leading the Midwest with 238. California topped the list with 694 companies, Texas followed with 404, New York with 335, Florida with 202 and Virginia with 284.

“There is great momentum building among Chicago’s small and medium sized businesses," World Business Chicago President & CEO Jeff Malehorn said in a statement. "Companies thrive here due to the city’s diverse economy, easy access to the world, and unmatched talent base."

For the full list of Inc. 5000 companies, click here.

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<![CDATA[Hostess Closing Schiller Park Twinkie Plant, Again]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 15:43:07 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/hostess-twinkies-156458828.jpg

Hostess Brands announced Wednesday it has decided to close its Schiller Park bakery, less than two years after the location originally was set to close as Hostess entered bankruptcy.

The Illinois bakery, which produced Twinkies since the 1930s, is expected to close in October. About 400 employees will be affected.

The company said the decision was made to "enhance its production and distribution capabilities and efficiencies."

"Hostess has brought these great brands back to the marketplace," CEO Bill Toler said in a statement. "We have invested heavily in all facilities to improve worker conditions and efficiencies in a very highly competitive environment and marketplace."

The company reopened the Schiller Park last July after Hostess was purchased by Metropoulos & Co. and Apollo Global Management LLC.

Since then, Hostess says the competition that emerged during its bankruptcy has continued to be more fierce than expected.

"While the old Hostess company was in bankruptcy," Toler said, "many competitors took over the shelves and are tenaciously defending their business and thus we must be highly efficient and technologically advanced to compete. As a result, we have invested in more efficient production capabilities and need to streamline our manufacturing infrastructure and protect our ability to compete."

The location is one of four remaining bakeries and the last in Illinois.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[United Airlines to Offer Uber Service on Mobile App]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 11:49:03 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/451565438.jpg

Looks like United Airlines is hopping aboard the Uber bandwagon.

The Chicago-based airline company announced Wednesday that it has teamed up with the ridesharing service by adding Uber to the United mobile app.

Uber information will appear on the United App, which will show options including available vehicles, estimated wait times and prices. After a customer selects a ride, they will be transferred to the Uber app or website to sign up for an account and complete the transaction.

Customers who sign up for Uber via the United app will receive 1,000 MileagePlus award miles, the company said.

“Our partnership with Uber offers customers new opportunities to simplify their travel experience,” said Praveen Sharma, United’s vice president of loyalty. “Customers can use the app to ensure a more convenient journey, from checking in for an international flight from their home or office to finding instant ground transportation options at their final destination.”

The news comes just one day before TripAdvisor announced a partnership with Uber to add the ridesharing service to its app as well.

It also comes on the same day the taxi-alternative service announced it was hiring former White House adviser David Plouffe to lead its campaign for acceptance in the cities where it operates.

Uber has faced challenges in the Chicago-area this year as the company continues to fight a recently-passed bill that regulates ride-share businesses.

Some officials claim the bill is intended to ensure "basic consumer protections" for Illinoisans, while Uber supporters say the bill protects and encourages a "taxi monopoly."

Earlier this year, uberX was denied access to pick up passengers from O'Hare and Midway airports in Chicago.

The decision came after the Illinois Transportation Association asked the city to look into what it called Uber's "unregulated airport pickups."

Uber's regular taxis and black cars are still allowed to pick up customers at the airport.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>