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Illinois Scrambles to Keep Companies from Leaving State

John on May 11, 2011 at 10:00 am

Last week Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn concluded a deal with Motorola Mobility which offers them $100 million in tax breaks over ten years plus other benefits in exchange for keeping their headquarters in Libertyville.

But Motorola isn’t the only company thinking about relocating. Sears has announced that it is fielding offers from a number of states:

The retail giant, which has called the Chicago area home since 1887, is in early talks with officials from several states to relocate its Hoffman Estates headquarters. The states include New Jersey, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Georgia, according to a source familiar with the talks. The chief motivation for the move is to cut costs, the source said.

Quinn responded to Sears’ news Monday by saying the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is working to keep the company in Illinois.

My first thought was that Sears was simply riding Motorola’s coattails, but from what I’ve read they have been shifting their operations out of the state for a couple years now. So this is not a case of jumping on the tax break bandwagon so much as it is a company making economic decision in its best interests.

The biggest company in Illinois is Caterpillar, the #1 producer of construction equipment in the world. Caterpillar’s CEO Doug Oberhelman sent a letter criticizing the state’s anti-business agenda a few months ago. This was seen by some as a warning that Caterpillar might also be looking for the exit.

Since then, Oberhelman has had a meeting with the Governor and has announced that the company is not leaving the state. That said, Oberhelman has made it known that he can not look to expand operations in Illinois unless something changes. He spoke at a community leaders breakfast last week about the cost of doing business in Illinois compared to Indiana:

Something is wrong with that system, very wrong with that system.

Of course most of the jobs in these communities are not at Caterpillar or Sears. Illinois is going to find that the businesses which did not qualify for special tax credits to offset the newly raised corporate taxes are going to be looking for another place to set up shop.

[HT: Show-Me Daily for the Sears news]

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