Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm Flees Illinois

Insurance chain State Farm is reportedly buying up substantial workspace in Texas, which may signal a coming exodus from the company's home state of Illinois.

State Farm is keeping the move quiet so as not to alarm employees. But the Dallas Morning News reports that it is a “major business relocation” already underway and that this is “one of the biggest stories in the Dallas-area real estate market and will ultimately involve thousands of workers.”

Texas-based real estate expert Bob Gibbons notes in a blog post that State Farm’s Dallas office space lease--about 2.5 million square feet of workspace in a few different places--is the Dallas area’s largest-ever office space lease by a single company.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported this week, too, that State Farm leased several hundred thousand more square feet of office space in Atlanta.

The company has 3.6 million square feet of office space in central Illinois and the spaces in Atlanta and Dallas easily total that amount.

At the end of 2010, in a special session, the Illinois Legislature passed a 67% hike in its corporate and personal income tax. The state is struggling with a structural deficit and its credit rating was recently lowered. The state now has the worst credit rating in the country. A number of businesses have floated the idea of leaving the state. A move by State Farm, however, would devastate the downstate economy. 

State Farm says publicly it is not moving its headquarters from Bloomington, Illinois, but reporters in Atlanta and in Dallas do not seem persuaded. They have tried to figure out where all the workers would be coming from to occupy the new office spaces.

Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin does not seem to be buying it either. While he told Breitbart News’ Kerry Picket he needs “to learn a little bit more about” the specifics of the State Farm moves, he expressed some concern over the potential Illinois may lose a huge workforce. “It’s a very respected important business in Illinois,” Durbin said of State Farm. “It’s a very large workforce in Bloomington.”

Breitbart News has learned that, as news stories popped up on Thursday, management in Bloomington were sent a memo that reinforced the “we’re not moving” mantra but cast doubt on the company’s future in Illinois. The memo apparently indicated that it is hard to recruit new employees in Illinois and that opportunities for relocation to Dallas, Atlanta and potentially new offices in the Phoenix, Arizona, area would become available.

“No mandatory moves were mentioned but it certainly seems to be spun as ‘we're not moving, but we'll make it nice for people who wish to leave,’” one person with knowledge of the memo’s content told Breitbart News. Those who were sent the memo were prohibited from printing or duplicating it.

Texas has become a hot spot for businesses to relocate to because the policies of the state’s GOP Governor, Rick Perry, have come off as friendlier to business than many other places. Perry’s office has not responded to a Breitbart News request for comment on this apparent relocation, but the governor has been on a tour this week in California hunting for business relocation candidates.

California’s liberal big government and tax policies are not much worse than Illinois’s. Illinois has an enormous unfunded pension obligation. Its economy has benefited from a relatively modest flat income tax, even considering the recent hike. The state government, however, is now completely controlled by Democratic Party supermajorities. Gov. Pat Quinn and public sector unions have been pushing for a progressive income tax. This will allow the Democrats to push through tax increases on certain classes of taxpayers. At some point, the wealthy will leave. And, like a good neighbor, State Farm seems to be the first on the block to exit.

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