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City of Chicago providing $6 million for MillerCoors

Story By Steven Schnarr

March 16, 2009 – On March 10, the Community Development Commission of the City Council approved support for MillerCoors Brewing Co. to move the company headquarters to Chicago.

The commission unanimously voted in approval for $6 million in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to MillerCoors for renovations of the building at 250 S. Wacker Drive.

The city’s new agreement states that when MillerCoors successfully brings in 325 jobs to Chicago, including the 25 current Chicago employees, they will receive $1 million from the city and $1 million each year for the next five years if at least 293 (90 percent) of those jobs are retained. The agreement did not specify how many of those jobs will be given to current Chicago residents.

The TIF funds used in this agreement is public funding used for redevelopment and community improvement projects in distressed or underdeveloped areas where development would not otherwise occur.

MillerCoors agreed to move the company’s headquarters to Chicago in July 2008 after Illinois, under the advisement of Blagojevich, agreed to invest $18 million of state funds for the project. With the March 10 agreement, the government funding will account for $24 million of the $39.5 million renovation project. This translates to $80,000 in government funding for each of the 300 new permanent jobs.

The $6 million dollars in TIF funds were approved almost five months after MillerCoors signed a lease agreement for 129,122 square feet of the South Wacker building for 15 years.

Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd Ward) endorsed the project and said he had been working with MillerCoors shortly after Molson Coors Brewing Co. and SABMiller PLC merged in 2007. He likened it to a competition for getting the company to build their headquarters in Chicago rather than another city such as Dallas.

“It was a great undertaking by both our departments and the governor’s office,” Fioretti said.

He emphasized creating new jobs in Chicago as one of the main benefits.

Chris Kozina, chief of staff for MillerCoors’ said, “We’re very excited to be coming to Chicago. It will be huge for the company and the city as well.”

But Konzina could not specify how many employees are relocating to Chicago versus how many Chicagoans will be employed.

“We have less than 25 employees working in Chicago currently,” Kozina said. “We hope to have a fair amount of folks relocating. We’re actively recruiting right now. So I can’t tell you what the number [of new Chicago employees] will be.”

Anne Kostiner, Community Development Commission said she would support allocating a certain number of those jobs to current Chicago residents, rather than just relocating current employees from other parts of the country.

“I would expect that, of course, we want to directly affect people living in Chicago,” she said.

No one from the public spoke at the meeting, and the commissioners showed little-to-no opposition about handing over $6 million to MillerCoors.

On October 29, Chicago Real Estate Daily reported MillerCoors planned on relocating 150 to 175 employees from the Miller headquarters in Milwaukee to Chicago, although it did not specify how many would be relocating from the Coors headquarters in Colorado.

Eight months before Illinois agreed to fund $18 million for the renovation project, the Miller Brewing Co. donated $5,000 to the campaign of Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Other topics voiced by the commission involved questions about what the company was doing to discourage underage drinking as well as MillerCoors’ support of United Way, a national income, education, and health advocate group.

The company is hoping to have the building ready for occupancy by summer 2009.

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