CHICAGO (AP) — A bid by Archer Daniels Midland Company for $20 million in state tax breaks as it decides whether to keep its global headquarters in Illinois drew criticism Tuesday from some state lawmakers, one of whom likened the agribusiness' strategy to blackmail.
Testifying before the state House Revenue and Finance Committee, ADM executives explained that they were contemplating moving the headquarters from Decatur in central Illinois to a more cosmopolitan city that would be more attractive to young industry talent. Chicago officials say they're in the running and talking to the company, though ADM has declined to name the cities it's considering.
"We have truly evolved into a global organization," said Greg Webb, ADM's vice president of government relations. "We feel we need to establish this new global center." Executives also mentioned the need to be closer to an international travel hub.
The sharpest criticism at the hearing in Chicago came from Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, a Chicago Democrat and majority leader in the House, who said ADM and other companies vying for individualized tax breaks hurt Illinois as a whole.
"We ... eat away at the tax base," she said. She added such companies were "essentially blackmailing the state ... saying if you don't go through this hoop for us, we may think about going somewhere else."
ADM — which processes corn, soybeans and other crops to make everything from animal feed to ethanol — has about 30,000 employees worldwide, about half of them overseas.
It first announced its plans last week. Even as the global headquarters would move elsewhere, ADM said the bulk of operations and 4,400 jobs would stay in Decatur. A new headquarters would have about 100 employees and become home to a new technology center that would eventually add another 100 workers.
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