(NewsNation) — Despite criticism over her handling of crime, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is urging business owners to be “cheerleaders” for the city.
“This is a great place to come because we’ve got great workers, we’ve got a very diverse economy and people know that they’ve got me as a mayor who is pro Chicago business,” Lightfoot said last month, defending her leadership by highlighting big corporations who are making Chicago home.
“International household names are coming to Chicago: Kimberly Clark, Kellogg, Google. These are companies that could be anywhere in the world, but they are coming here and making significant investments,” Lightfoot added.
Last year, Google bought a government building for $150 million. Kimberly Clark announced new offices for 250 employees, and Kellogg also moved corporate headquarters to the Windy City.
Meanwhile, other corporate giants have made a recent exit, citing crime as a major factor. Reportedly, Aldi and Whole Foods have also closed stores citing similar concerns.
On a smaller scale, Old Navy closed a prominent location on State street. “Every time we lose a business, every time we lose residents, that is a negative, it doesn’t help,” said Civic Federation President Laurence Msall.
Msall, who has been paying close attention to the mayor’s race, says there is one issue central to Chicago’s future.
“Really for the business community, immediately, it’s safety. Do people feel safe downtown? Is it safe on the L? Does it feel safe when you’re walking in your neighborhood?” Msall said.
According to the Chicago police department, in Lightfoot’s past four years in office, murders are up 39% and theft has increased by 37%.
The CEO of McDonalds Chris Kempczinski has been an outspoken critic of the crime.
“Everywhere I go I am confronted by the same question these days: What is going on in Chicago?” Kempczinski said.
With restaurants and corporate headquarters in Chicago, he says the rise in crime is scaring employees and hurting recruitment.
“There is a general sense out there that our city is in crisis,” Kempczinski said.
Small business owners have been vocal as well. “It’s happening I would say weekly now,” bakery owner Teresa Ging said.
“I asked them (police) why is it taking 40 minutes if it’s not a gunshot wound or someone dead. They said ‘We’re overwhelmed and understaffed,’ and that is not the first time I’ve heard it,” Ging said.
Ging penned an open letter to the mayor, outlining concerns while calling leadership “incompetent.”
It’s an issue mayoral candidates have seized upon.
“Because of Chicago’s violence problem and crime, many businesses are going to other cities across the South, we can stop the bleeding by making Chicago a safer city,” said mayoral candidate and U.S. Representative Jesús G. “Chuy” García.
“Many of us thought that this administration would raise the bar. But all we’ve seen is raised bridges, an attempt to raise taxes and raise the murder rate. We have to do better,” said mayoral candidate Kam Buckner.