DAVID MERCER, Associated Press
SOPHIA TAREEN, Associated Press
DECATUR, Ill. - Agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland Company said Monday that after 44 years in the small central Illinois city of Decatur, it is looking for a new location for its headquarters with better access to its global customers.
ADM said it is already considering a list of potential locations for what it's calling its new global headquarters, but doesn't plan to publicly discuss where it could be headed or how long it will take to make the decision. Chicago is among those candidates, city officials said.
But the company also said no layoffs are planned and it will keep a workforce of 4,400 in Decatur, which also will become ADM's North American headquarters. The company has extensive operations in the city, about 180 miles southwest of Chicago, and is Decatur's largest employer.
"Our company is growing and becoming more global and more customer-centric," CEO Patricia Woertz said. "To continue to succeed, we need a global center in a location that allows us to travel and work efficiently with customers and employees throughout the world. We also need an environment where we can attract and retain employees with diverse skills, and where family members can find ample career opportunities."
The new global headquarters would have about 100 employees, ADM said in a news release. It would also be home to a new IT center that would add another 100 new employees over the next several years.
ADM has about 30,000 employees around the world, about half overseas, spokeswoman Victoria Podesta said. The company, which is No. 27 on the Fortune 500 list, processes corn, soybeans and other crops to make everything from animal feed to ethanol and food additives.
Tom Alexander, a spokesman for the city of Chicago, confirmed it has talked with ADM and is a candidate.
"This is a dynamic, global company that is a leader in a key industry, and we believe that they are a good fit with what Chicago has to offer," he said. "We'll do our best to keep them in Illinois."
Gov. Pat Quinn met with ADM officials last week, where they informed him of their decision to relocate, according to Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson. She did not know if ADM officials asked for incentives.
"We're going to continue to have discussion with this company as we always do, continue to partner with them," she said.
ADM has talked off and on for years about the need for a headquarters with easier access to the world beyond central Illinois, Podesta said. Decatur's small airport lacks major commercial flights.
During the company's proposed acquisition of the Australian company Graincorp, ADM decided to go ahead with the relocation plan, Podesta said.
"Decatur doesn't have an international airport," she said. "If you're trying to get to Australia to have a meeting ... it adds to your trip."
The company told Decatur officials about its plans in the past few days, Podesta said. But City Councilman Pat McDaniel said he was told Monday at a company luncheon.
McDaniel recalled that one of ADM's competitors in the agricultural processing business, Tate & Lyle, moved its headquarters out of Decatur to the Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates in 2010 and, similarly, left manufacturing and jobs in town.
"It's like a double-edged sword, I think," he said. "It hurts Decatur when you lose the international headquarters of a company like ADM. But, again, they're still going to employ 4,400 workers in this town and still be a vital part of our economy."
One business owner in downtown Decatur said the city of about 75,000 relies heavily on ADM and its jobs, and residents get jittery when there's uncertainty.
"We're right in the middle of the country. I don't know how much more centrally located they can be," said Robert Laskowski, 61, a Decatur native and keeper of a CD and DVD store.
He said he can understand how it might be easier for ADM's international clients to get to Chicago, but felt confident they would keep the manufacturing jobs in Decatur, "because this is where their product is - corn and soybeans."
University of Illinois economist Fred Giertz said that while the company may try to get some kind of tax breaks or other incentives from the new location, he doubts the company would be able to get a package worth tens of millions of dollars that a factory employing several hundred might command.
"I wouldn't be surprised if they ask for something, but I don't think it's as a big a deal as locating a Honda plant," Giertz said.
The headquarters move would not be the first for ADM; it relocated to Decatur from Minneapolis in the 1960s.