Corporate Incentive Packages in Illinois Come under Scrutiny Motorola, Sears Campuses Criticized as Urban Sprawl

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Byline: Mike Comerford Daily Herald Business Writer

A Washington think-tank is unveiling a 115-page report today on Illinois' corporate incentive packages, singling out Motorola's Harvard campus and Sears, Roebuck and Co.'s Hoffman Estates campus as examples of urban sprawl.

The report is critical of lavish incentive packages for corporate relocations that haven't worked out as planned.

"They (Motorola and Sears) stand out as examples of state- subsidized sprawl," said Greg LeRoy, a longtime urban consultant and co-author of the report called, "A better deal for Illinois: Improving economic development policy," for Good Jobs First. The study was funded by the Chicago-based Woods Foundation.

Motorola got an estimated $43 million to develop on 325 acres but is abandoning the building by April, the study noted. The company is relocating the work to Texas and and overseas.

Sears got $66 million in subsidies and $112 million in tax increment financing-backed bonds to help develop the 280-acre Prairie Stone Business Park, which isn't yet fully developed with tenants.

"Not only are they expensive but they put development on the fringe of the suburbs and this creates volatility and stress on the tax system, schools, pollution and traffic," LeRoy said.

Co-author Jeff McCort, former economic policy director for the Council of Great Lakes Governors, said that with the induction Monday of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, it may be a good time to re-examine the various financing programs that subsidize development.

"This could be a time of real innovation," McCort said.

Boeing Co. would have chosen to move to Chicago from Seattle without Illinois being the highest bidder, the report claims. And it only brought about 200 jobs.

It calls for a cost-benefit analysis of development proposals as well as a repeal of the single sales tax law, which taxes Illinois corporations less than other states. And it calls for the state's transportation and economic development funding to be combined for better regional planning.

Illinois and the Chicago area have come to be known for the sheer number of corporate relocation deals. …