2 Warren High board members decry lack of information in tax break request

Two Warren Township High School board members have raised concern about a lack of publicly available information on a technology company's plan as it seeks about $2.3 million from local taxpayers to move to Gurnee.

Warren District 121 board member Catherine Campbell said at a recent meeting that business tycoon panelists on ABC's "Shark Tank" would demand more information from AKHAN Semiconductor Inc. than what elected officials have received before agreeing to any financial incentives.

District 121 is among the governments serving Gurnee that Mayor Kristina Kovarik asked to provide tax incentives for AKHAN to bring its corporate headquarters, manufacturing, and research and development to a 120,000-square-foot building west of the Tri-State Tollway that another company is vacating. AKHAN intends to bring all 54 employees from Hoffman Estates and California to Gurnee by year's end if a deal is struck, with plans to create up to 250 jobs within three years because of explosive growth projected from manufacturing semiconductors with new diamond film technology.

In all, District 121, Woodland Elementary District 50, Warren Township, the Gurnee Park District, village government and Lake County would provide a combined $2.3 million in tax incentives to AKHAN over five years. The local money would be on top of about $3.5 million available to AKHAN through an agreement with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Last week, the Warren school board voted 5-0 - with abstentions by Campbell and Liz Biondi - to provide $90,000 in tax breaks as the district's share to AKHAN. Campbell and Biondi questioned the idea of approving the financial incentive without much information about AKHAN's plan.

"I just feel like we're asked to be basically an investor," Campbell said. "And if we were the 'Shark Tank,' the 'Shark Tank' would say basic things. 'Where's your business plan?' They'd want some more specifics. Business plan, patents."

Kovarik reiterated that a nondisclosure agreement with the village prohibits how much about AKHAN's plan for Gurnee may be shared publicly. She added the company has patents and was vetted by the state.

AKHAN was launched by Gurnee native Adam Khan in 2012, and he has a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory to develop a platform using diamond film as semiconductors for the aviation, defense, telecommunication and power industries. It is a subsidiary of AKHAN Technologies Inc., which Khan started in 2007.

Warren board member Michael Munda said providing $90,000 to help bring AKHAN to Gurnee is an opportunity to show how state and local government can work together to secure a cutting-edge technology business.

"We're all in this together," Munda said. "And I don't think the Adam Khans come along too often. It's a lot like the sports world. You don't see a Brett Favre come along too often. Ask the Bears."

In a statement Wednesday, Khan did not specifically address the concerns from Campbell and Biondi. On Tuesday, the Warren High graduate donated to the school 10 "NanoFab lab ... in a box!" kits worth $10,000.

"AKHAN Semiconductor is grateful for the overwhelming support from Gurnee and Lake County community leaders, and we are excited to already be investing in the school to further strengthen that bond and build the next generation of high-tech talent," Khan said. "The 10 NanoFab lab kits we donated to Warren Township High School will give kids hands-on experience with emerging technology, and fuel their imagination of what's possible, both for the industry and their careers."

Woodland District 50 board members voted 6-0 last week in favor of about $172,000 in tax breaks over five years for AKHAN.

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