Will tax breaks help keep new Office Depot in Naperville?

State officials Wednesday began moving to try to provide tax breaks to the new Office Depot Inc. and convince the retail giant to locate it global headquarters at OfficeMax’s Naperville offices.

The merger between Office Depot and OfficeMax took effect this week, and the new company now has to pick between the OfficeMax headquarters in Naperville and the Office Depot headquarters in Florida to be its home base.

Office Depot co-CEO Ravi Saligram told lawmakers Wednesday the company doesn’t want to start a tax breaks “bidding war” and that the new joint board will consider many factors, including which decision will be best for the employees that will eventually be displaced.

Still, both states are likely to offer benefit deals. More than 2,000 people work for the company in DuPage County.

“We just want both states to put their best foot forward,” Saligram said.

An Illinois Senate committee Wednesday put forward an offer of $53 million in breaks over 15 years and sent the proposal to the full Senate for further debate.

State Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican, said it was tough to know what kind of offer was appropriate because it’s unclear what Florida will offer. Saligram said other company officials are trying to work out an offer there.

The deal, worked out by Democratic state Sen. Tom Cullerton of Villa Park, would require Office Depot to keep 2,050 employees in DuPage County, add 200 more and spend $150 million on capital improvements.

“This incentive is just a way of showing our commitment to being competitive and bringing new companies and new jobs to the state,” Cullerton said.

The Senate could debate the plan as early as Thursday, but it’s unclear how the Illinois House will react. Lawmakers there Wednesday approved a much smaller tax deal — $5 million over 20 years — to try to lure chemical distributor Univar Inc. to Downers Grove from Washington State.

The proposal was approved by a 86-28 vote and would require the company to create 100 jobs to get the incentives.

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Illinois officials are trying to convince the new Office Depot Inc. to leave the companyÂ’s headquarters in Florida and use the OfficeMax offices in Naperville. File photo
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