CHICAGO (AP) — Sears Holdings Corp.’s plans to close up to 120 stores nationally after poor holiday sales doesn’t directly affect the company’s agreement to keep its headquarters in Illinois, Gov. Pat Quinn reassured residents Tuesday.
The governor also said that while it isn’t covered in the agreement with Sears, he hopes the company won’t close stores in the state.
“We expect the headquarters to stay here and the jobs to stay here,” the Democratic governor told reporters in Chicago following a Hanukkah event. “The fact they have to close some stores around the country? That isn’t good news, but it doesn’t directly affect this agreement.”
Sears’ decision to close stores was made public less than two weeks after Quinn signed legislation guaranteeing the company $15 million in tax breaks during the next decade. The company had threatened to move its headquarters from the state before securing the tax incentives.
The tax breaks for Sears depend on the company’s ability to maintain 4,250 jobs at the Sears headquarters in Hoffman Estates, said Rep. David Harris of Arlington Heights, the top Republican on the House Revenue Committee.
“If they don’t meet the benchmarks, they don’t get the tax credits,” Harris said. On the other hand, requiring Sears to keep a certain number of stores operating in Illinois would have been unrealistic.
“We knew this going in: Sears is not the strongest company financially right now,” Harris said. “They’ve got to be able to adjust to the economic situation they’re faced with.”
If Sears fails, “it has not cost the state of Illinois anything,” Harris said. “They are not going to get the tax credits if they fail.”
While Quinn and Harris separated the tax incentives package from Sears’ store closings announcement, Sen. Ira Silverstein, a Chicago Democrat, said he feels betrayed by the company. He said Sears officials should explain whether they knew about the potential store closings when lawmakers were considering the tax breaks.
“We gave them a beautiful incentive package. They put a lot of pressure on us to do this package because they wanted to stay in Illinois. I think there’s some explaining that has to be done by Sears,” Silverstein said. “If they were going to do these closings they should have told us ahead of time.”
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