Big companies can't and won't wait forever for a final decision when they negotiate with the state of Illinois.
A corporate merger between Florida-based Office Depot and Illinois-based OfficeMax means that 1,600 jobs will be leaving Illinois for the Sunshine State.
It's unclear if Illinois was destined to lose those jobs under any circumstances. But it's a fact that Office Depot had considered OfficeMax's Naperville headquarters as the merged company's new site and that legislation providing $54 million in tax incentives remains pending in Springfield.
Unfortunately, House Speaker Michael Madigan last week did not call the legislation that had already passed the Senate for a vote. That was followed by this week's announcement that Office Depot has bypassed Illinois for its new headquarters and chosen Boca Raton, Fla.
An Office Depot spokeswoman said Florida had an advantage because its facility in Florida can accommodate the new employees that are part of the merger. But the spokeswoman also said that Illinois didn't approve an incentive package while Florida did. She also cited Florida's overall more favorable tax climate.
So here goes Illinois again, shooting itself in the foot with its hostile business environment and the failure of the General Assembly to act quickly in the face of an economic challenge.
This could happen again. ADM is moving its corporate headquarters from Decatur, and it's believed that it prefers Chicago for its new location. But ADM also is considering other states and wants to make a decision soon.
Unfortunately, Madigan hasn't moved on the $25 million tax incentive package and doesn't appear inclined to do so. Told that ADM wants an answer by the end of the year, Madigan recently replied, "That's nice."
No one, of course, likes to get in a tax break bidding war with corporate giants. Unfortunately, state leaders have put Illinois in such a bad business environment that they are ripe for this kind of blackmail.
A Northwestern University management specialist commented that Illinois looks "desperate" when it engages in bidding wars to keep big companies in Illinois or lure them here. The professor is correct.
But Illinois looks desperate because it is desperate. It simply cannot afford to let good jobs go elsewhere. The state is staggering financially, and its problems will only grow worse when people and jobs go elsewhere.