Two Chicago Companies Among the Best Small Business in US

This is the second year in a row that the Top Small Workplaces list ranks two Illinois companies.

By Nicola Orichuia
|  Tuesday, Sep 29, 2009  |  Updated 1:14 PM CDT
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Steppenwolf Theatre, Radio Flyer Among Best Small Workplaces

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Actor Gary Sinise inside the Steppenwolf theater, which he helped ofund with John Malkovich.

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Steppenwolf Theatre, Radio Flyer Among Best Small Workplaces

The Wall Street Journal says that two of the best small places to work are right here in Chicago.
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Despite the economy, Chicago is still a good place to be employed in small businesses.

The third annual ranking of top 15 small businesses in the U.S. put together by the Evanston-based non-profit Winning Workplaces and the Wall Street Journal includes two Chicago employers: the Steppenwolf Theatre Co. and Radio Flyer Inc.

Founded 33 years ago by actors John Malkovich and Gary Sinise, Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre employs 77 full-time and 340 part-time workers who are all privy to the goings on at the theater because of an intranet system that executive director David Hawkanson, who took the reins five years ago, leans on heavily, The Wall Street Journal reported

Because of Hawkanson’s direction, Steppenwolf employees now enjoy 90 percent health insurance coverage for around $60 a month and a dollar-for-dollar 401(k) matching program up to 4 percent of income. 

The other Chicago-based company, Radio Flyer Inc., has been in business since 1917, and produces popular toys like little red wagons and rocking horses.

Even though the company had to layoff half of its employees in 2004, closing its historic Chicago factory and outsourcing manufacturing to China, today it gives employees a lot of freedom in the decision-making process and various activities and fund-raising events are supported.

Last year alone, Radio Flyer raked in $95.8 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.

This is the second year in a row that the Top Small Workplaces list ranks two Illinois companies. Consulting company Integrated Project Management Co. of Burr Ridge and JA Frate, Inc. of Crystal Lake were both listed among 2008’s top small workplaces.

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