Should Vernon Hills give local company $1.37 million to attract millennials?

  • American Hotel Register in Vernon Hills is seeking a sales-tax rebate from the village amounting to $1.37 million over 10 years for internal improvements to its headquarters. A company representative says the renovations will attract employees who will eat and shop in the village.

      American Hotel Register in Vernon Hills is seeking a sales-tax rebate from the village amounting to $1.37 million over 10 years for internal improvements to its headquarters. A company representative says the renovations will attract employees who will eat and shop in the village. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 10/16/2018 5:29 PM

In recent years, Vernon Hills has invested millions in economic incentives to protect and enhance its vast retail sales base.

But a pending request to share the cost of interior renovations at American Hotel Register Co. is regarded in a different light by village leaders.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Would interior renovations to attract millennial employees who expect a certain type of work environment qualify for village assistance? Should such a precedent be set?

Village trustees will consider those questions and others Wednesday during a work session following the regular board meeting at 7 p.m. at village hall, 290 Evergreen Drive.

American Hotel Register, a privately held company and the nation's largest distributor of hospitality products, is seeking a sales-tax incentive amounting to $1.37 million over 10 years to fund a portion of "internal improvements" at its headquarters, 100 S. Milwaukee Ave.

As proposed, the company wants to equally split the sales-tax revenue it generates for the village each year. That's expected to be $275,000 in 2019, meaning the company would keep $137,750.

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The incentive would fund only a portion of what would be spent, according to Bob Baker, general counsel for the company that's known for its colorful array of international flags outside its headquarters.

"These are not business improvements but renovations to enhance the quality of work life," he said.

Open work spaces instead of traditional cubicles, a coffee bar, a cafeteria with self-paying kiosks and to-go foods, wireless projectors and other features are among employee expectations these days, according to Baker, who will be making a presentation Wednesday to the village board.

"We need to bring millennials out here from the city and are struggling with it," added Baker. American Hotel Register would pay the bulk of the renovation costs, he added, but the village incentive would help.

It likely will be a tough sell as the company this past spring was advised the village was not interested in negotiating such a pact.

According to the village, Vernon Hills has not entered into this type of agreement with an existing business solely for internal building improvements. Traditionally, incentives have been given to projects that would create additional revenue, add employees or involve new construction.

Approving the proposed incentive for American Hotel Register would set a precedent and could lead to similar requests from other businesses, according to the village.

Baker contends the renovations would bring people to the community to eat, shop and eventually to live, once they decide to have families and want to be closer to work. When he addresses village leaders, Baker is expected to emphasize the company's support for community activities since it arrived in Vernon Hills in 1998.

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