Eye On Illinois: Resist urge to play politics with corporate HQ swaps

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It’s pretty difficult to compare 306 CR excavators and Frosted Flakes, but recent corporate news invites the opportunity.

Last week Caterpillar announced it will move its headquarters from Deerfield to Irving, Texas, five years after leaving its longtime Peoria home. Tuesday Kellogg announced a split into three companies, headquartering the largest, Global Snacking, in Chicago instead of Battle Creek, Mich., which will keep the cereal and plant-based businesses.

Caterpillar is by most metrics a larger and more valuable corporation than Kellogg’s. But the cereal giant is no slouch, so it’s a decent pickup for Chicago. But both stories are an invitation to dig into the details. Caterpillar employs more than 17,000 Illinoisans, the Deerfield office accounts for about 250 jobs. Global Snacking will still have a campus in Battle Creek.

While politicians try to score points with each new corporate news release, armchair analysts consider things like Caterpillar CEO Jim Umpleby’s personal preference to not be in Illinois, or Kellogg CEO Steve Cahillane buying a $5.6 million mansion in Chicago’s Lincoln Park.

In May, Boeing announced plans to move from Chicago to be nearest its main customer, the Pentagon. Aside from Illinois being just a 20-year layover between Seattle and Arlington, Virginia, I suggested focusing on how companies of all sizes rethink office space post-COVID-19, what that means for commercial real estate and how proactive municipal leaders might reshape their communities to adapt to a modern reality.

Another round of corporate churn ignites the same topic: How will cities deal with buildings as their valuation changes drastically based on future use? Municipalities of all sizes should proactively address this challenge.

ON THIS DAY: It’s the 105th anniversary of one of my favorite baseball stories: On June 23, 1917, Boston Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth walked Washington Senators leadoff hitter Ray Morgan. Ruth argued with umpire Brick Owens, got ejected and then smacked the arbiter upside the head. The Sox called on Ernie Shore to pitch, Morgan got caught stealing second and Shore – who pitched five innings two days earlier – retired the remaining 26 Senators in order as Boston won 4-0.

Typically, Shore is the story’s hero. Ruth was far from the icon he’d become with the Yankees, but was an established star after leading the league in starts, ERA and shutouts in 1916. That makes Owens the star here, refusing to take unneeded guff from an ace and standing his ground.

Revisiting Owens’ gumption also offers a chance to renew a plea for readers to consider becoming a licensed sports official. The Illinois High School Association’s deadline for annual renewal is June 30. The annual Officials Conference is July 8-9 at Normal West High School. For more information, visit tinyurl.com/ihsaconference.

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

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June 23, 2022 at 08:27AM

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