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ConAgra To Move HQ And 700 Jobs To Merchandise Mart

By Kate Shepherd in News on Oct 1, 2015 9:00PM

ConAgra Foods

ConAgra, the maker of popular foods including Slim Jims and Orville Redenbacher's popcorn, is moving its headquarters from Omaha to Chicago. The new headquarters will occupy 170,000 square feet of the Merchandise Mart where 700 employees, 400 from Naperville and 300 from Omaha, will be located starting next summer, according to Crain's.

Illinois will be offering ConAgra an unspecified amount of Edge tax credit subsidies in exchange for creating a minimum of 150 new jobs in the state, a spokeswoman for Gov. Bruce Rauner told Crain's. And the jobs moving from Naperville don't apply to the credit and ConAgra must pledge to keep the jobs here for at least 15 years.

The move is "highly strategic," and since the company's remaining consumer packaged-foods business was already based in Naperville, the move was "common sense," CEO Sean Connolly told Crain's.

"We appreciate the strong support offered by both Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Bruce Rauner during this process of evaluating a move to Chicago," Connolly said in a statement. "The decision to move headquarters was solely based on the strategic needs of our business and was not a city-vs-city exercise. We feel fortunate to have a meaningful relationship with two outstanding business centers."

It might be good news for Chicago but the decision will have a major impact on Omaha. ConAgra plans to maintain a presence of 1,200 employees there but will be laying off 1,500 people or about 30 percent of its office workforce mostly in Omaha. Omaha's reaction to ConAgra's decision is very clear on social media: