Illinois could lose a total of 15,000 jobs if Sears Roebuck and Co., based in Hoffman Estates, leaves the state. And that's something Gov. Pat Quinn doesn't want to risk.
Quinn confirmed Monday he plans to discuss the future of the company with Sears representatives and Hoffman village board members.
"We will sit down with the Sears people," Quinn said during an unrelated news conference. "I'm sure we'll work out something that will work out for the company, but most importantly work for the common good for the workers, for the jobs."
Reports surfaced Monday that Sears is quietly thinking about an out-of-state move in preparation for 22 years worth of tax breaks expiring in 2012. North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee and New Jersey reportedly are among the destinations being considered.
But Sears Holdings said in a statement, "it's very important for everyone to understand that we have made no decisions at this point."
The company says it values its relationship with Hoffman Estates and Illinois but that it can't ignore the incentives package set to expire.
"We have had some preliminary discussions with Hoffman Estates and did commission an economic impact study. We do owe it to our associates and shareholders to consider options and alternatives and intend to be very thoughtful and thorough in our deliberations."
Sears isn't the first large company to consider leaving Illinois. Quinn has offered about $191 million in tax breaks to keep Motorola, Continental Tire, Navistar and U.S. Cellular in the state.
In March, Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman sent a letter to Quinn, questioning the state’s commitment to business after the recent tax hike. Oberhelman and Quinn met in private to discuss the Fortune-500 company's future in Illinois, and following the meeting, Oberhelman announced Cat would remain in Peoria.
On Friday, Motorola Mobility CEO Dr. Sanjay Jha announced the Libertyville-based company had agreed to an Illinois incentives package from Quinn that includes tax credits estimated at more than $10 million annually over the next 10 years. In turn, the company committed to spending $500 million in research and development to keep about 3,000 jobs in Illinois.
In an official statement, Sears says it understands that Illinois is battling budget issues and it looks forward to working with state officials "at the appropriate time."
But for now, Sears says, it's too soon to say whether they'll leave.
"Speculation about whether Sears will remain in Hoffman Estates is not fair to our associates, particularly so early in this process."