Illinois Moves to Keep Sears, Boards of Trade in Chicago Area

The Illinois House has approved an extension of the economic development area around Sears Holdings Corp. headquarters in Hoffman Estates in an effort to keep the retail giant from relocating and taking 15,000 jobs out of the Chicago area.

The legislation was part of a two-bill package aimed at keeping Sears and Chicago futures trading from leaving the state, as well as aiding the working poor. It was expected to go to a vote in the Senate this week, according to reports in the Courier-News and the Chicago Sun-Times.

“We thank the House of Representatives for passing legislation today aimed at keeping Sears an Illinois company. This is a major step in the process,” said spokesman Chris Brathwaite in a written statement Monday from Sears. “We appreciate the House’s efforts and are hopeful that when the Senate returns, it will follow suit.”

The legislation grants tax breaks to CME Group Inc., owner of the Chicago Board of Trade and Chicago Mercantile Exchange; the Chicago Board Options Exchange; and Sears Holdings Corp. It also would extend tax breaks for research and development, and for net operating losses to other businesses; grant more-generous estate-tax breaks; and include a $2 million tax incentive designed to draw pre-Broadway shows to Chicago’s theater district.

The bill passed the IL House of Representatives with 81 yes votes, 28 no and 7 present.

Community Unit School District 300 has said it “reluctantly” came to an agreement on the EDA extension with Sears and the village of Hoffman Estates after negotiating together for the first time late last month. The language they agreed on was not changed in the package the House approved Monday.

District 300, which includes part of the EDA in Hoffman Estates, has been opposed to extending the Sears tax breaks that would have ended next year since legislation first was proposed to do so this spring. That would send $14 million a year in property taxes each year from the district to the EDA, it has said.

School District 300 posted a statement on its website stating it had hoped to “end the EDA in 2013, as originally planned when the state created the EDA in 1989,” it noted.

Sears has said that without the extension, relocation offers from other states would look more attractive. It will decide by the end of the year whether to remain in Illinois, the company has said. And if Sears were to relocate, it could take its 6,000 employees as well as 9,000 ancillary jobs with nearby businesses, vendors and contractors, according to officials with the village of Hoffman Estates. Losing those jobs “would not be a great way to work our way out of the recession,” Mayor William McLeod told the Courier-News.