Companies Say Goodbye to the Dead Zones of the Suburbs

Deeper Than Your Heart Allows
Deeper Than Your Heart Allows

I’ve long suspected this to be true:

When Motorola Mobility lined up a Silicon Valley candidate a few months ago for a VP-level role, the phone maker was hopeful he’d accept. After all, the company offered the chance to develop products at a subsidiary of Google Inc. 

The engineer declined. His reason: the prospect of relocating to Libertyville, Ill., about 35 miles from downtown Chicago, said Scott Sullivan, Motorola’s head of human resources.

Mr. Sullivan expects recruiting to get a lot easier next February when the company moves into a new space in the storied Merchandise Mart building in downtown Chicago.

Motorola will join United Continental Holdings Inc., Hillshire Brands Co. —the successor to Sara Lee Corp.— and other corporate giants abandoning vast suburban campuses for urban offices nearer to the young, educated and hyper-connected workers who will lead their businesses into the digital age. Archer Daniels Midland Co. recently said it would move its headquarters from Decatur, Ill., and in the Bay Area, startups like Pinterest Inc. are departing Silicon Valley for San Francisco.

After decades of big businesses leaving the city for the suburbs, U.S. firms have begun a new era of corporate urbanism. Nearly 200 Fortune 500 companies are currently headquartered in the top 50 cities. Many others are staying put in the suburbs but opening high-profile satellite offices in nearby cities, sometimes aided by tax breaks and a recession that tempered downtown rents. And upstart companies are following suit, according to urban planners. The bottom line: companies are under pressure to establish an urban presence that projects an image of dynamism and innovation.

(click here to continue reading Companies Say Goodbye to the ‘Burbs –

Apollo Visits the New Google HQ
Apollo Visits the New Google HQ

which makes it more puzzling why governments (state, city both) dangle tax breaks to encourage corporations to relocate. The truth is the executives much rather would live in vibrant cities, not B.F.E. rural Alabama for the most part. The employees would rather live in a place that is fun to live in, a place with culture, award-winning restaurants, recreation, and even sports teams. As a totally random example, Sinead O’Connor came through Chicago, playing for a few days at the City Winery. Do you think she’s playing in Gulfport, Mississippi? Or Decatur, IL? So why does ADM, for instance, stamp its feet for a tax break from a state that’s already operating at a deficit? Happily, the Illinois House adjourned before granting payola graft to ADM, though the IL Senate passed their version of this travesty, right before cutting pensions for teachers.

Two bills that would grant special tax breaks for three companies have stalled until state lawmakers return here in the spring. The bills, aimed at allowing Archer Daniels Midland, Office Depot, and Univar to retain withholding taxes that would go to the state, passed the Senate during a one-day special session Tuesday. But the House adjourned, stalling the bills.

All three companies have said they are considering proposals from other states.

“We appreciate the support of the senators who voted for the bill, especially the leadership of Sen. (Andy) Manar. Given that the House did not act, we will review our options. We expect to make an announcement soon,” Jackie Anderson, an ADM spokeswoman, said in a statement.

…Office Depot and Univar declined to comment.

Had the bills been approved, the incentives would have cost the state an estimated $88 million.

Unions, which opposed the plan to deal with worker pensions, criticized the incentives bills.

“At a time when Illinois is a chronic deadbeat and critical resources such as education, public safety and healthcare remain woefully under-funded, our elected representatives today voted to sink the state further into red ink by absolving some of its richest corporations from paying their fair share in taxes,” Keith Kelleher, president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Kansas, said in a statement.

Office Depot, chemical distributor Univar and agriculture giant ADM are among at least a half-dozen companies seeking special state legislation to keep their employees’ tax withholdings instead of forwarding them to the state. The companies want the special breaks because they have years in which they have little or no state corporate tax liability and can’t take advantage of state tax breaks awarded to spur economic development.


(click here to continue reading Tax breaks for Office Depot, Univar inch closer to approval –

Yeah, I’d rather Office Depot and A.D.M. have strong enough businesses that they could survive without resorting to corporate welfare…

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