Cryptocurrency exchange opens headquarters in Fulton Market

FTX US also is working with Equity and Transformation, a Chicago group that helps people who have been incarcerated, to launch a one-year pilot program that will give $500 a month to 100 city residents.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks with Richard Wallace (left), founder and executive director of Equity and Transformation.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks with Richard Wallace (left), founder and executive director of Equity and Transformation, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for FTX US, which opened its cryptocurrency exchange headquarters in Fulton Mark on Tuesday.

Manny Ramos/Sun-Times

A cryptocurrency exchange celebrated the opening of its new Fulton Market headquarters Tuesday.

“This is a mechanism and a tool to bring traditionally underrepresented and ignored populations into the world of crypto so they can take ownership and control of their own financial destiny,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at the new offices of FTX US, 167 N. Green St. “I think the sky is the limit.”

FTX US, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world, was working out of a small Chicago hotel just months ago, but soon realized the need to expand, said Brett Harrison, the firm’s president, though the firm did not disclose the number of employees based at the headquarters.

“Chicago has some of the largest exchanges, trading firms, hedge funds, tech companies ... and we are very excited to be a part of it,” Harrison said.

Harrison said the city’s history of public-private partnerships is why FTX not only wanted to be based in Chicago but also help give back to the city’s underserved communities through a small guaranteed basic income program.

FTX US partnered with Equity and Transformation to launch its 1-year pilot, which will give $500 a month to 100 Chicago residents. Participants in the program, which starts in the fall, also will get financial literacy classes, a zero-fee bank account and a Visa debit card.

The program will focus in on Austin, Englewood and West Garfield Park.

Lightfoot said the FTX program complements two other guaranteed basic income initiatives: Equity and Transformation’s Chicago Future Fund and the city’s own Chicago Resilient Communities program, which will provide $500 a month to 5,000 people.

“I can’t underscore enough how important these investments are for our residents,” Lightfoot said. “And [for] really showing them that they matter, that they are seen, that they are heard and that we are doing everything that we can to reach out and support them.”

Richard Wallace, founder and executive director of Equity and Transformation, said the rising cost of living in Chicago has made it difficult for people to stay in the city.

“We are a city that marks itself by our diversity and so part of that commitment to diversity is a commitment to ensuring that your neighbors can stay,” Wallace said. “So we have an opportunity with this program … to actually bring in interventions that actually produce equity.”

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