Chicago, a world-class commercial, industrial and cultural city, functions as a major national center and as the main regional center in the heart of the United States. It originally emerged as a transportation hub for cargo heading west and agricultural products east by land and water. While transport technology has changed, paper has not. The city is the most important passenger and cargo transportation hub in the country, with the highest number of air departures and the highest rail traffic in the country.
The commercial and manufacturing economy stands out both for its size and for its diversity. More than 30 Fortune 500 companies in a variety of industries are headquartered here. Factories and warehouses stretch for miles from the city center. Chicago is also a major hub for small businesses and manufacturers in common industries.
There is probably no more diverse economy in the country. Like many large cities with two or more races, Chicago has its problems of expansion and growth, and the suburbs have outgrown many farming communities and old towns such as Elgin and Aurora, and there is little in the geographical path to curb the push. Naperville, to the west and strategically located between the area's bypasses, has become something of a suburb, with a strong commercial base that draws travelers from other neighborhoods in all directions. Joliet is an older industrial and transportation hub on the southwest side.
In Chicago, location relative to major transportation routes is the most important thing. Many endure daily one-hour trips to the city and around its crowded ring roads. The city has an excellent urban and suburban transport network with a variety of rail and bus services; however, traffic along arteries and ring roads can be heavy with the highland population. A less typical urban problem is that downtown Chicago and nearby neighborhoods have become so livable and so many businesses and households have been located on the urban periphery that rush hour traffic affects people leaving the city.
It is a unit of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and managed by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.