Bruno, Schweighart, Gerard comment on Jimmy John's plan to move
Somewhat out of context, council member Tom Bruno commented during last night's city council meeting on Jimmy John Liautaud's contemplation of moving his corporate headquarters out of Champaign to Florida following the state legislature's decision in January to raise income taxes.
The increase boosted the individual income tax from 3 percent to 5 percent and the corporate income tax from 7.3 percent to 9.5 percent, and Jimmy John was none too pleased.
The sandwich chain has its corporate headquarters on Fox Drive in Champaign, and Bruno made it clear how important that is to the city. Citing Jimmy John's estimation that his company is responsible for 1,400 hotel or motel nights per month in Champaign-Urbana, Bruno said the company makes a huge economic impact.
"They stay here, they spend money, they're responsible for a significant number of enplanements," Bruno said.
He went on...
"They may be responsible for why the housekeeper at the hotel had to work extra that week. Or got to work extra that week. They may be responsible for why they still have a job," Bruno said.
They eat dinner here, they tip waiters and waitresses, they rent cars. Essentially, they bring a lot of money to Champaign-Urbana and then leave.
And the same goes for other large Champaign companies, Bruno said. He offered Wolfram Research, Amdocs and Flightstar as examples.
"When we see a company that maybe we don't directly deal with and we think, 'I don't care if they stay or go,' we should at least appreciate how much they mean to our community," Bruno said.
And that goes for University of Illinois students, too, he said.
"We need to appreciate that," Bruno said. "We need to understand its role in why we all have a healthy vibrant community with many different employers, and I think we ought to be grateful that we are the home to many growing companies. ... Your economic well-being is integrally linked to the success of those people."
Mayor Jerry Schweighart (who, by the way, launched a Twitter account today: @ChampaignMayor) followed up on that.
"With the responsibility that Jimmy had, and with the cooperation he's had from this community ... I hope he can look at the loyalty he's had from his employees that has helped him get to where he is and realize that just pulling out of Champaign is going to disrupt a lot of families," Schweighart said.
Schweighart's challenger in the looming April election, Don Gerard (or, rather, @DonGerard), e-mailed me a statement in January regarding Jimmy John's situation: "I understand Mr. Liautaud's frustrations and respect his right to choose where he does business. I believe local businesses opt to do business in Champaign for a myriad of reasons and the stability of the local economy, quality of local schools and character of the community are contributing factors. Now more than ever I believe it is crucial for Champaign to have strong representation in terms of economic development, promoting our city on a state and national level and with regards to working with our elected officials in Springfield."
Economic development officials with the city have been collecting tax information and considering some comparison information "to try to keep this factual and not hyperbolic." Whether there's anything to be done -- or that needs to be done -- to encourage Champaign businesses to stay has yet to be decided.
While we're at it, has anyone heard the radio ad during which the governor of New Jersey tries to persuade Illinois businesses to move to his state?