Motorola Mobility just latest company to leave Chicago suburbs

July 26, 2012 4:28:36 PM PDT
While Chicago is celebrating the move by Motorola Mobility to Merchandise Mart, suburban Libertyville is losing a major employer that contributed to its tax base.

The move from the suburbs to city is not limited to just Motorola. Motorola follows United Airlines and Sara Lee in the flight from the suburbs to downtown Chicago.

Motorola's move is the largest amount of employees to come to the city in decades. Libertyville's mayor says he is disappointed, but happy the company is staying in Illinois.

It is been called the worst-kept secret in Libertyville: Motorola moving on. For years, the company's cell phone and wireless division has been housed in this northern suburb.

Losing Liberytville's largest employer to Chicago does not come as a surprise or seem to worry the community's mayor.

"We are not like the type of community, if you lose a business the whole community is devastated," said Libertyville Mayor Terry Weppler. "We have a number of businesses in the area."

But Mayor Weppler admits it is unlikely Motorola will be able to find a tenant for its building that will bring in 3,000 jobs, the amount Libertyville is losing.

Weppler says, while a couple hotels close to the Motorola campus will take a hit, he doubts there will be a big loss in sales and property taxes, because Weppler says the majority of Motorola employees live in Lake County.

"The biggest impact is our residents that work for Motorola that now will be commuting," Weppler said.

Moving back to the city is becoming a trend in Chicago and nationwide.

"Back in the 70s and 80s it was going in the opposite direction," said Crain's Chicago Business's Alby Gallum. "Sears picked up its stakes and moved 6,000 employees out to Hoffman Estates."

Gallum says, back then, cost was the driving force to the suburbs. Today, it is all about attracting top talent, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel says that talent pool wants to stay in cities.

Emanuel says Motorola's decision to leave the suburbs was never about the suburbs.

"The old world was Chicago, Libertyville. Chicago, Schaumburg," Emanuel said. "Now the world is--this could have been Seoul, South Korea. This could have been Sunnyvale, California."

The mayor says the city did not give Motorola tax incentives to move downtown. Although, the company did get more than $100 million in incentives from the state last year as Motorola threatened to move out of state.

Thursday, Governor Pat Quinn said he is working with Motorola to find a buyer or tenant for the company's Libertyville property.

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