Thursday, December 19, 2013

What exactly is a “pro-business” state?

I’m sure that a segment of society – the part that calls itself “economic conservative” and “pro-business” – is gnashing its teeth and seething with rage at the thought that a major company deliberately chose to locate in Chicago.

Even though state government specifically refused to give the company – Archer Daniels Midland, Co., of downstate Decatur, Ill. – a tax incentive that it claimed was essential to making the move economically viable.

ADM, A PROCESSOR of crops into food and other products such as fuel, has long been the staple of the economy in Decatur. But life in central Illinois isn’t cosmopolitan enough for the corporate executives who run the company.

Which is why, earlier this year, ADM officials let it be known that they want to move their corporate offices elsewhere – under the guise of wanting easier access to airline flights for their executives to travel the world on business.

That made Chicago, with its O’Hare International and Midway airports, a natural.

Except to those who are determined to believe that nobody could possibly want to be associated with Chicago, They were the ones who were pushing the idea that Illinois would lose ADM unless it got with the program, so to speak, and started making concessions to businesses even if they made no practical sense.

IN THE CASE of ADM, they wanted to be given a tax incentive totaling $24 million during the next two decades. Which really is laughable – a tax break over just over $1 million per year for a corporation that does billions of dollars of business per year world-wide.

The real issue was one of a corporate entity thinking that government somehow exists to serve it exclusively – even if those interests contradict those of other people. Personally, I always thought the point of government was to keep the interests of everyone balanced.

As it turned out, the Illinois Senate took a vote in favor of the ADM request. But the Illinois House of Representatives never got around to it.

They stayed
Other issues always managed to pre-empt it from coming up for a vote – particularly the matter of pension funding reform that the Legislature acted upon earlier this month in special session.

IT SEEMS THE allure of Chicago was too much for the ADM officials to pass on – even if they technically reduced their offer and are now merely moving some executive positions to the Second City, rather than following through on their original thought that they would also develop a technology center where great scientific advances in agriculture would have been developed.

That would have been an interesting piece to have in Chicago; probably moreso than the presence of a few dozen suited executives who will now work in the downtown area and will be lost in the masses of the millions who flood into the Loop each day to earn a living.

Although if the dollar figures work out, it wouldn’t shock me to learn that ADM develops that piece of their corporate puzzle in the future.

But denying us that piece, for now, is probably ADM’s way of “punishing” Chicago for making them otherwise “lose face” in that they demanded financial concessions and wound up getting nothing.

NOTHING, THAT IS, except for the knowledge that they will be located in THE major city of the Midwestern U.S. and have access to the wonders that are Chicago.

So even though there are people who are speculating politically that the winners were Gov. Pat Quinn (who released a statement Wednesday talking of the “continued partnership as this dynamic company invests and grows in Illinois”) and his allies.

I’d argue the real winner is ADM itself for staying. And the people, because we rejected the notions of the ideologues who think we have to give and give and give. That would have been the real loss!


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