Illinois lawmakers continue talks to keep Sears in Hoffman Estates
While rumors swirl offering potential spots where Sears Holdings Corp. could move, Illinois officials continue to work to ensure the company remains in Hoffman Estates.
"This has to be a win-win," State Rep. Fred Crespo, a co-sponsor of a bill that would keep Sears from moving, said Thursday. "It's can't be a win for Sears and not for the citizens of the state."
His piece of legislation has been folded into a larger tax increment financing district reform bill, said Crespo, the Hoffman Estates Democrat representing the 44th District. The tax increment agreement with Sears that kept the company from moving out of state in 1992 expires at the end of 2012. If passed into law, it would extend that deal by 15 years as a way to keep Sears from moving.
The bill awaits the Senate's approval, which could come at the legislature's October Veto Session in Springfield. It's already made it through the House.
Lawmakers said the bills were merged to make it easier to gain passage.
The last couple of weeks have seen reports of the Washington, D.C., area and Michigan as destinations Sears is considering. The reports are attributed to unnamed sources are attributed.
It's not surprising that Michigan would make a bid for Sears, Hoffman Estates officials conceded. Kmart moved its corporate offices from Michigan to Hoffman Estates after a 2005 merger with Sears.
Hoffman Estates Mayor William McLeod said isn't surprised by the multiple reports of places attempting to woo Sears. He said the village went through a similar scenario before Sears picked Hoffman Estates when it moved from the Sears Tower in Chicago.
"It's not unexpected, you just carry on," McLeod said. "You don't know what the validity is to any of those reports; you never know."
State Rep. Tom Morrison of the 54th District was the co-sponsor of the first bill with Crespo. He said the reports of where Sears could move are pressuring Illinois lawmakers to take steps to keep Sears' 6,200-plus jobs. Sears is Hoffman Estates' largest employer.
"It's our own tax policies that have made this an unfavorable climate," said Morrison, a Palatine Republican, referring to the recent increase in income tax rates. "And again, it's not just the big companies like Sears or Motorola or the (Chicago) Mercantile Exchange."
Morrison worries that other companies will join in asking the state for money.
"I don't think this is the last of the companies that are going to threaten to leave," he said.
There are two components to the incentives state officials are weighing to keep Sears.
There's the extension of the 23-year incentive package, known as the economic development agreement, which the village is seeking. The 1989 agreement is similar to a TIF, but its use isn't limited to so-called blighted areas. The EDA allows Sears to spend property tax money otherwise ticketed for taxing bodies such as school districts to pay for some of the costs of developing the area.
Sears must also weigh what the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is willing to offer in terms of tax credits. In May, Gov. Quinn announced more than $100 million in tax credits to keep Motorola Mobility and its 3,000 jobs in Libertyville.
Kelly Jakubek, a spokeswoman for the department, could not say much about talks with Sears.
"We are still in discussions with them," she said.
Crespo also remains worried about the businesses surrounding Sears' campus that thrive because Sears resides close by.
"I've seen governors from Indiana, from New Jersey come to town and try to take things away," Crespo said. "It's the game they are playing, and we get that. My biggest concern is we have over 6,000 jobs right now in the state; that's important."