2023: Doing Business In USA - Illinois

Published on Jan 21, 2024

Doing Business In USA - Illinois

1. What is the current business climate in your jurisdiction including major political, economic and/or legal activities on the horizon in Illinois that could have a big impact on businesses?

Faegre Drinker has called Illinois home since 1910, and the state maintains an international business-friendly climate.

As the largest market in the Midwestern United States, Illinois is a global business destination that has the attributes for international companies to find success. Illinois has top talent across a multitude of industries and world-class infrastructure that connects companies to their customers and products efficiently. In addition, Illinois is known among USA leading states for education, access to capital, and low cost of living. Illinois is also home to 35 Fortune 500 companies, nearly 2,000 major corporate headquarters, 2,000 global companies, and 1.2 million small businesses.

The largest city in Illinois, Chicago, is the 3rd most populated in the USA and it continues to attract top companies and talent (including, in recent years, Google and McDonald’s). Despite a few difficult years during COVID-19, the city has successfully come back and is now vibrant and safe again. At a high level, the Chicagoland area is known for its strong pharma and food industries, traditional manufacturing and industrial footprints, and strong media and marketing sectors.

2. From what countries do you see the most inbound investment? What about outbound?

Countries leading in foreign investment in Illinois include the UK, Japan, Germany, Canada, and France. In May 2023, Illinois exported mostly to Canada (USD 1.78 billion), Mexico (USD 1.07 billion), Germany (USD 382 million), Australia (USD 358 million), and China (USD 276 million). Illinois imported mostly from Canada (USD 6.06 billion), China (USD 3.43 billion), Mexico (USD 1.59 billion), Germany (USD 1.22 billion), and Japan (USD 760 million).

3. In what industries/sectors are you seeing the most opportunity for foreign investment?

The state leads in industries including advanced manufacturing, agribusiness, energy/electric vehicles, information technology, life sciences, transportation, and logistics. Illinois has a strong history of manufacturing excellence, which has evolved into a progressive technology-driven sector. In addition, Illinois is the #1 state for private food-related research and development in agribusiness.

4. What advantages and pitfalls should others know about doing business in your country?

The United States has the world’s largest economy with business laws that promote easy entity formation. The USA is known to be welcoming of non-USA companies entering USA markets. The free enterprise system allows foreign companies to compete on a level playing field. Additionally, the USA is the third largest country and has one of the largest consumer markets in the world.

As one of the most populated states with the 3rd largest city in the country, Illinois is an ideal state in which to set up a subsidiary. In addition, Illinois is centrally located within the USA (especially when compared to New York, Miami, and Los Angeles), which facilitates logistics with easy access to the entire continental country.

The USA is a constitutional federal republic comprised of 50 states and the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.). Individual states exercise a high degree of autonomy. Businesses must be aware of laws in the individual states, with additional adherence to local jurisdiction laws. While the USA thrives as the largest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI), there has recently been a plan by the Committee on Foreign Investment to increase scrutiny of foreign-owned companies’ investment plans. This will be done as part of an ongoing effort to prioritize national security. Lastly, it can be confusing to do business in the USA because of its common law regime, which is less black and white than most of the world, with laws and rules that are not always clear.

5. What is one cultural fact or custom about your country that others should know when doing business there?

Doing business in the USA can sometimes be like the old "far west"! As noted above, common law makes legal predictability difficult, and most companies in the USA are privately owned and small- to mid-sized, with owners/managers who vary significantly and tend to have their own unique styles that can be awkward to foreigners. This means doing business in the USA requires adaptability and flexibility, and significant vigilance. One must learn when to trust and know if it is better to shake hands versus a strong contract. Having a trusted legal advisor by your side that understands these cultural differences is key from the very start.

Our Firm

1. What distinguishes your firm from others in your market?

At Faegre Drinker, our relentless client focus and collaborative culture are key market differentiators. Clients are at the start—and the heart—of everything we do. We listen to our clients’ priorities and pressures, we bring them fresh ideas that work, and we deliver excellence.

With 1,200 attorneys and consulting professionals licensed across the USA and with strategic offices in London and Shanghai, we have the strength and reach to solve our clients’ most complex transactional, litigation, and regulatory challenges wherever they may arise.

Our international team is a versatile group of attorneys and consultants spanning all practice areas that help clients execute cross-border transactions, manage regulatory challenges of international business, resolve disputes, and enter new markets. The firm’s USA footprint and its strategically located international position the team to understand local culture and offer clients a comprehensive international experience to bolster their operations worldwide.

2. What are three words that describe the culture of your firm?

Designed for clients.

3. How does your firm participate in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and/or Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) initiatives?

Faegre Drinker’s ESG team helps clients navigate the ESG landscape, implement ESG principles, comply with an evolving regulatory environment, and embrace innovation. When clients engage Faegre Drinker to further their ESG goals, they benefit from our legacy of innovation. Our firm invented the legal model that's been adopted in over 35 states for the benefit of corporations—and we have shown a long-time commitment to forming, supporting, and protecting the work of leaders looking to harness the power of the marketplace to serve the social good. The team works with public and private companies, nonprofit organizations, fund sponsors, foundations, public charities, family offices, government entities, higher education institutions, private funds, development finance institutions, and individual investors, among others, on ESG matters all over the United States, in Canada, and throughout the world. Learn more at www.faegredrinker.com/ESG.

4. Are there any new and exciting initiatives, practice areas or industry focuses in your firm?

Faegre Drinker is investing in technology to function more effectively as a business and serve our clients better.

For example, we’re investing in AI to accelerate our use of predictive analytics to better serve and create value for clients. We are also helping our clients leverage the value of AI in a safe, legal, and ethical manner through our AI-X group and Tritura, the firm’s AI subsidiary. Our team of attorneys, data scientists, and eDiscovery experts help our clients address the regulatory, litigation, and reputational risks that arise from new technologies.

Additionally, we are holding ourselves accountable for building a diverse workforce at the firm—from recruiting to interviewing, hiring, developing, retaining, and promoting firm professionals. We also created an automated real-time customizable client dashboard tool to calculate data of team demographics to evaluate performance toward goals—allowing us to measure progress, assess improvements, and communicate updates to clients.


Luc Attlan and Noemi Aguirre