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Sears talking with Illinois and 2 other locations

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Sears Holding Corp. said Wednesday that it is talking with two prospective destinations for its headquarters even as it talks to Illinois about staying in that state.

Sears officials recently conducted tours of two sites and continue to talk with government leaders in Illinois about the looming expiration of a package of tax incentives tied to the its suburban Chicago headquarters, spokeswoman Kimberly Freely said.

Freely declined to name the two prospective locations. However, a person familiar with the negotiations said the two sites are Austin, Texas, and Columbus, Ohio. Sears has 6,200 employees at its headquarters.

The person, who person spoke on condition of anonymity because negotiations are ongoing, said Sears officials toured potential sites in Austin and Columbus in late September. They also met with officials who included representatives of the governors of both states, the person said.

Sears hopes to make a decision by the end of the year, Freely said.

“Our commitment to our associates and shareholders is to be thorough in our review of our opportunities in the hopes of resolving this matter in the near future,” she said. “We have received offers from a number of states and recently conducted site visits and facility tours at a pair of them. We also look forward to continuing our productive and positive discussions with officials here in Illinois.”

A spokeswoman for Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said the governor’s office continues to talk with Sears but didn’t provide details about where those talks stand.

“Sears plays an important role in our state’s economy, which is why the governor and his administration are continuing extensive talks with the company,” Quinn spokeswoman Annie Thompson said. “The governor’s door is always open to business leaders to continue discussing other ways we can improve Illinois’ business climate to create more jobs and expand the economy.

Sears moved to Hoffman Estates in suburban Chicago in the early 1990s, lured in part by state-approved incentives that give the company a share of property taxes that would otherwise go to local schools. Those incentives expire next year. Legislation awaiting action by the state Senate would extend them.

Sears is just one of a handful of big companies that have said they could leave Illinois after Quinn and the Legislature raised income taxes earlier this year. Those companies include the CME Group Inc., which owns the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the Chicago Board Options Exchange and Caterpillar Inc.

Some experts have said they doubt it makes financial sense for Sears to move. But the company has reportedly been wooed by locations in several states.

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