Area Manufacturers Not So Excited About Amazon Headquarters In Chicago

While Chicago elected officials do all they can to woo Amazon to move its new headquarters to the city, others familiar with the area’s workforce and the challenges 10,000 new jobs in the city would bring aren’t as optimistic about the project.

Bringing Amazon to the Chicago area was one of several issues that came up during a panel discussion at the Technology & Manufacturing Association’s annual Mayors & Manufacturers breakfast held at the group’s Schaumburg headquarters in late September.

TMA President Steve Rauschenberger asked if Amazon’s move would prompt challenges for manufacturers offering similar entry-level salaries that already remain unfilled despite active outreach.

“I really wonder where Amazon is going to get the people from,” Zach Mottl, chief alignment officer for Atlas Tool Works said. “I’m trying to hire them too, and I’ve been trying for a couple of years and haven’t found them – even for entry level jobs. I’m having a hard time finding them.”

Mottl, who also serves as chairman of TMA’s Government Relations Committee, said he’s noticed a growing complacency among the younger applicants, lacking commitment to and appreciation for the opportunities their plants offer.

“There’s an attitude of ‘I can be vacant from my job and not call in for days,’” Mottl said. “And recent Cook County policies that have been put into place have made it worse.”

Besides the $15 minimum wage ordinance, Cook County – including Chicago – now requires mandatory paid time off, allowing employees to take up to two days off with pay, without letting their employers know why they’re not at work.

Manor Tool’s Tom Simeone agreed with Mottl, and said area schools are not teaching math to students – forcing him and other manufacturers to invest in re-education in an area that should be covered during elementary and high school years.

“I don’t know what kind of workforce Amazon is trying to lasso,” Simeone said, “But nearly every younger person that comes into my facility has problems with math basics – not knowing addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. The schools need to teach math.”

Hanover Park Mayor Rod Craig had a slightly different take on the challenges an Amazon headquarters locating in the city would bring.

Serving on the area’s Metra Board, Craig said he wasn’t sure how 10,000 people would get downtown on a daily basis.

“That would demand more transit cars on the rails, while demanding more freight to be transported at the same time,” Craig said. “I just can’t see highways expanded to be twelve lanes wide going in and out of the city. I just don’t know how they plan to get those 10,000 into the city.”

The morning’s discussion, hosted by TMA’s Government Relations Committee, closed with questions and comments from those in attendance.

The GRC worked with Cook County Commissioner Sean Morrison to encourage local municipalities to exempt themselves from the Board’s ordinances calling for $15 minimum wage and mandatory paid time off. Of Cook County’s 132 local jurisdictions, 109 chose to opt their municipalities out of those two mandates.