CHICAGO — If Archer Daniels Midland was a company looking to leave Indiana, or Missouri, or any other state, Illinois lawmakers would likely be falling over each other to land the agribusiness giant.
But the massive corn and soybean processor is having a hard time convincing state leaders to essentially pay them to move from one part of Illinois to another.
“I’m a little troubled at the idea that we’re going to spend state tax money to leave Decatur, which as I recall, is still in the state of Illinois, in order to come to Chicago, also in the state of Illinois, Democratic leader Barbara Flynn Currie chided ADM officials Tuesday as the company pushed for $20 million in tax breaks to consider Chicago.
ADM has called Decatur its home for decades, but vice president of government affairs Greg Webb said the downstate community is not very attractive to new, young, global employees.
“For those of us who love agriculture, love to work in it, Decatur is a perfectly great place for us to be,” he said. But Webb explained younger, tech savvy workers want something more. “The recognition that those kind of people name the places where they like to live, it is also a reality for us.”
Webb said Chicago has a major airport, a major city feel and major attractions.
Decatur has the highest unemployment rate in Illinois, at nearly 13 percent.
ADM will not say what other cities to which it may move. Webb said he doesn’t want the relocation process to become a “beauty contest.” But ADM has reportedly been looking at Indianapolis, Minneapolis and St. Louis.
Republican state Rep. David McSweeney said Illinois wants to keep ADM, but on Tuesday said he had a hard time seeing the benefit in essentially paying the company to leave one Illinois city for another.
“With $2 billion of net income, $24 billion of market equity, what are we doing here today?” McSweeney asked. “Why are we dealing with a $20 million issue?”
ADM chief financial officer Ray Young said ADM got to that $24 billion in value by watching its “nickels and dimes.”
McSweeney has long said he would like to end tax breaks for individual companies, and instead lower the overall tax rate for businesses in Illinois. But a lower rate may not help ADM.
The company admitted on Tuesday its tax liability is, in many years, less than $1.2 million.
ADM wants to tweak the tax credits normally offered to companies. The company desires a discount on payroll taxes, rather than see a break on its income.
“I would have thought you, as a very profitable company, had a lot of income,” Currie said. “And yet the proposal before us today says that instead of taking (the normal tax break) you will take it against the withholdings from your employees.”
Benjamin Yount writes for Watchdog.com.