Wisconsin works to poach Illinois businesses

               By Andrew Thomason
             Illinois Statehouse News
   SPRINGFIELD - 1/22/11 - Leaders in neighboring states have used Illinois’ recent income tax increase to try to lure businesses into moving, and Wisconsin could soon have another piece of bait in that battle: tax breaks.
   A plan to forgive income taxes for two years for businesses that move to Illinois’ northern neighbor has passed through one chamber of Wisconsin’s Legislature and is now awaiting state Senate approval.
   The measure got overwhelming approval in Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled state Assembly, and could be passed out of the Republican-controlled state Senate as early as next week. It would then go to GOP Gov. Scott Walker, who campaigned on corporate income tax breaks.
   “It’s like when you see these rental properties that might have a bunch of empty units and offers the first month’s rent free if you sign a lease with us. It’s the same concept,” Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said.
   He added that while this was in the works even before Walker was elected, it does gain extra relevance because of the tax increase recently approved in Illinois.
   Walker has been vocal about trying to drive companies out of Illinois and into his state since the income tax hike, but at least one Wisconsin business isn’t listening.
   Jim Rozell owns a hotel analytics company and plans to relocate from Glendale, Wisc., to Chicago by the end of the year. Hotel Compete currently has five employees, but Rozell said he will likely hire 10 more people once he comes to Illinois.
   Rozell said he started planning the move before taxes went up Illinois, but hearing about it didn’t deter him.
   “Initially one of my big deciding factors was that taxes were much lower (in Illinois). Even with your tax increase, it’s still lower than Wisconsin,” Rozell said.
   Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has emphasized that money from the higher taxes is necessary to fix a structural deficit that has made the state a national illustration of what not to do fiscally.
   “Illinois is focused on putting our financial house in order, making us a stronger environment for business and that is what Gov. Quinn is focused on,” Quinn spokeswoman Brienne Callahan said.
   “We’re focused on us and doing the right things for Illinois and bringing businesses to Illinois and making us a stronger competitor.”
  Quinn’s office has been working to counter claims by Walker and opponents of the tax increase in Illinois that employers will flee the state now.
   Earlier in the week it was announced that a Evraz Inc., a steel company, will locate its North American headquarters in Chicago, bringing with it 70 jobs.
   “Illinois continues making great strides toward economic recovery. Evraz’s decision to move here is one more indication that our business climate and our work force are attractive to major national and international corporations,” Quinn said in a news release.
   And Quinn’s office even announced that Illinois would be doing some business poaching of its own. A news release sent out Friday afternoon stated that Becker Iron & Metal, a scrap metal company, would be moving from Missouri to Illinois, bringing with it 40 jobs.
   Story courtesy of Illinois Statehouse News.