Motorola Mobility: Farewell Libertyville, hello Chicago
3,000 workers in Libertyville going to Merchandise Mart
Turning away from decades-long roots in the suburbs, Motorola Mobility Inc. plans to leave its Libertyville campus for a downtown Chicago location seen as more in keeping with the image of its new Google owners.
After 18 years in Libertyville, the mobile phone maker is moving its headquarters and about 3,000 workers into the top four floors of the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago. The 15-year lease and the $300 million price tab for the move and build-out of the new office are intended to give the legendary company its own new lease on innovation.
The company is taking its $110 million state incentive package with it, angering some local politicians who said Gov. Pat Quinn "stabbed Libertyville in the back."
The move is expected to happen in phases and finish by summer 2013. The new location will include the Libertyville workers as well as workers from other offices worldwide, said CEO Dennis Woodside.
"We're a great believer in more people in fewer places," Woodside said of Motorola Mobility's nearly 100 offices worldwide, which will be consolidated.
Woodside, often seen and photographed without a tie, presents a sharp contrast to the dark-suited CEOs of Motorola's past. He was in Libertyville Thursday to address employees during a companywide meeting about the move to Chicago, which had been rumored since May. He said he would provide every assistance to make the commute easier for suburban residents.
Motorola Mobility parent company Google Inc. felt the iconic Merchandise Mart building, which is along the Chicago River and in the heart of the city, was a good fit to help stir creativity and innovation among its workers, Woodside said. Also, nearby universities will provide a large talent pool for recruiting, he said.
"We think we have the opportunity here to create a hub and attract even more talent to Chicago," Woodside said.
Quinn, who had appeared Thursday at a bill-signing ceremony regarding an unrelated issue, said he gave Motorola "permission to move."
"I told their CEO we expect them to work very hard here in Lake County (and) Libertyville to help all those people who are working for Motorola now be able to get down to their jobs in downtown Chicago and if they have to use extra transportation to do it, so be it. And we also want to make sure we work with Libertyville and Lake County to get a new company to replace Motorola on their campus here in Lake County. It's a very good place to do business," Quinn said, pointing to companies like Abbott Laboratories near North Chicago and Baxter Healthcare in Deerfield.
He said he wants to make sure Lake County continues to thrive economically.
"But the bottom line is we want to keep the jobs in Illinois," Quinn said. "It's important to have good technology jobs in Illinois that spawn other jobs for many, many different people. The pairing of Google and Motorola Mobility, I think, will be one that will hopefully create jobs for many people for years to come."
State Rep. Ed Sullivan, a Mundelein Republican, complained that Quinn, a Democrat, didn't tell local leaders in advance about the move and said Quinn was "placating Chicago at the expense of the suburbs."
"The governor was very quick to ask for help passing the incentive package to keep Motorola in Illinois," Sullivan said, "but was nowhere to be heard of when he stabbed Libertyville in the back."
Libertyville Mayor Terry Weppler said he is disappointed about the move and will be kept informed about plans for the future of the campus.
"Sure, we're disappointed, but Motorola's been a good corporate citizen and this was a corporate decision. So I won't question that," said Weppler. "They said they would work with us on finding another tenant."
Weppler believes the loss of the company and its 3,000 workers will have an impact on the local economy, "but it won't devastate the community."
Lake County Board Chairman David Stolman said he's been trying to meet with Woodside for the past couple of weeks, but it just didn't happen.
"Nobody had the guts to tell us," Stolman said.
While he did not have specifics, Stolman said there will be an impact from the move.
"The reality is, this is going to be a major hit on the economy," he said.
The move was a big victory for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who recently recruited seven companies, including Schaumburg-based Motorola Solutions, which is adding an office in Chicago.
"Today marks a homecoming for a company that was founded in Chicago over 80 years ago and continues to innovate to this day," Emanuel said in a statement. "Motorola Mobility joins a growing group of industry-leading companies that see Chicago as a global leader of talent development and business growth, and the company will bring jobs and economic opportunity to our city."
In August 2011, Google announced that it would buy Motorola Mobility for about $12.5 billion. Woodside arrived in Libertyville last May to replace Sanjay Jha as CEO, just after Google officially acquired the company. The deal also came in the wake of the state providing Motorola more than $110 million in tax incentives to stay in Libertyville.
As part of that deal, Motorola agreed to keep at least 2,500 workers in Libertyville, while Quinn said it made "an oral commitment" to keep 3,000 jobs. Motorola Mobility spokeswoman Jennifer Erickson said Thursday those tax incentives will go with Motorola as it moves to Chicago.
As the company faces yet another transition in its storied history — moving from Chicago to Schaumburg in 1976, where Motorola Solutions remains, then to Libertyville — Woodside said he was excited about the future, seeing the Merchandise Mart as a new hub for technology and innovation.
"Libertyville has served this company well over the years," Woodside said. "But Motorola is at the crossroads now."
• Daily Herald Staff Writers Mick Zawislak and Mike Riopell contributed to this report.
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