Jobs, thousands of them. That’s the principal reason state and local officials awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks over 30 years to keep Sears in Illinois.
Under a 2012 law designed to keep the company from leaving the state, Sears was required to maintain at least 4,250 employees at its sprawling offices in Hoffman Estates and a small satellite office in Chicago. In return, the retail icon received tax breaks worth an estimated $275 million.
But as the company fired hundreds of employees in the years leading up to its 2018 bankruptcy, Sears grew increasingly concerned about maintaining the tax breaks, according to interviews and internal corporate documents.
Company officials began counting baristas, fast-food workers and janitors who worked at Sears headquarters but weren’t employed by the company, records show.
Sears’ counting methods have raised doubts about the legitimacy of millions of dollars in property tax rebates that the company received from Hoffman Estates. A local school district has filed a lawsuit against Sears for $43 million, charging it overcounted the number of employees and collected public money that it should not have received.