ConAgra Foods, Inc. (NYSE:CAG) announced restructuring plans that includes the relocation of its headquarters to Chicago, accompanied by the elimination of approximately 1,500 positions of its office-based workforce.
As part of this move, ConAgra is taking up a lease for new office space in the Merchandise Mart, where it will house some 700 employees. This includes the company’s senior leadership team and certain functions of the Consumer Foods business, which are currently located in Omaha, NE and Naperville, IL.
While Nebraska loses the ConAgra headquarters, the region will still retain approximately 1,200 employees within key administrative functions, as well as research and development and supply chain management. ConAgra currently has about 3,000 employees located at facilities in Omaha and Lincoln in Nebraska and in Council Bluffs, IA.
The company will be closing its Naperville, IL office and relocating hundreds of the remaining jobs to the new Chicago offices in the Merchandise Mart.
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner said in a release that he is thrilled to welcome ConAgra Foods’ worldwide corporate headquarters to Illinois. “We look forward to the opportunities created by ConAgra’s decision to invest in Illinois, and welcome them to their new home,” added Gov. Rauner.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel added that “I am honored to welcome ConAgra Foods to the City of Chicago. By choosing Chicago as their new home, ConAgra Foods sees the same strengths that so many other companies see in relocating their headquarters here from our talent, to our transportation, to our quality of life.”
Sean Connolly, president and chief executive officer, ConAgra Foods, said that “We appreciate the strong support offered by both Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Bruce Rauner during this process of evaluating a move to Chicago.”
Illinois economic development incentives have previously been offered to the company in the form of EDGE tax credits to support its investment and job creation plans in Chicago. That was before the company started considering relocating its headquarters. Since then, both Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts and Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert have talked with the company’s leadership, but ConAgra did not ask for additional incentives to stay in Nebraska.
“The decision to move headquarters was solely based on the strategic needs of our business and was not a city-vs-city exercise,” added Connolly. Last month, ConAgra Foods announced a quarterly loss driven by a $1.95 billion charge for its private label business, which the company acquired for $5 billion in 2012.
The fallout in Omaha begins with the departure of Brenda Hicks-Sorensen as the director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. Hicks-Sorensen’s short term leading the agency barely lasted eight months.
“At this time, I want to thank Brenda for her service to the State of Nebraska. My administration and the Department of Economic Development will continue to prioritize growing Nebraska and aggressively building an agency centered on promoting Nebraska’s business friendly climate and encouraging investment in our state,” said Gov. Ricketts in a release announcing the leadership change at NEDED.