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Office Max to begin move out of Illinois in April

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News,Business,Illinois,Retail

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Office Max plans to begin moving 1,600 jobs out of Illinois next month, with some positions permanently eliminated — a move that comes months after Illinois lawmakers declined to give the company the millions in tax breaks it requested from the state.

The company, which recently merged with Florida-based Office Depot, will begin the process of permanently closing its Naperville operations in April, according to a memo sent by Office Max Human Resources Director Ronda Aimi to state legislative leaders and DuPage County officials.

While a number of jobs are being moved from Naperville, other jobs will be terminated through a structural reorganization of the company, according to Office Depot's Chairman and CEO Roland Smith.

In a Feb. 28 conference call with investors, Smith said the company will reduce the number of corporate positions, making its "organizational structure significantly smaller and more efficient." Changes, he said, include reducing total corporate headcount by 35 percent.

Company spokeswoman Karen Denning, who provided Smith's comments to The Associated Press, declined to say how many jobs will be eliminated overall.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity's monthly Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification report also does not disclose how many layoffs will take place.

Dave Roeder, spokesman for the department, said Wednesday that Office Max advised the agency on Feb. 11 of 54 layoffs that started at the Naperville facility in late January. However, Roeder said, the department hasn't yet been informed of the total of number of jobs that will be lost from closing the facility.

Office Depot officials late last year said Illinois' lack of an incentives package was partly behind the company's decision to move. Other factors included taxes and the ability of the existing 625,000-square-foot facility in Florida to accommodate the new company's employees. That facility is almost twice as big as the Office Max facility in Naperville.

Roeder said the agency offered to work with the company on incentives that didn't require lawmakers' approval, but "the company did not pursue those options with us."

The Senate in December passed legislation that would have provided $53 million in incentives for Office Depot, as well as tax breaks for other companies. But the House never acted on those bills.

Democratic state Sen. Tom Cullerton, sponsor of the legislation, called House's lack of action disappointing. However, even without the tax breaks, he said Wednesday that he feels Illinois has a stronger business climate than Florida's — citing a centralized location, an efficient transportation structure and a mass of potential employees in the Chicago suburban area.

"The incentive was an added opportunity to give them one more bullet to get them here, and it just didn't happen," Cullerton said.

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