Connell: CareerBuilder, other tax breaks ‘common’

The notion that Gannett used a tax break to create jobs in one city, while simultaneously eliminating jobs elsewhere is misleading, company spokeswoman Tara Connell told Dow Jones Newswires this afternoon. “It’s common business practice when enlarging or moving a corporate headquarters or consolidating business units to get a tax break and change headcount in one place while building it in another,” the news service quotes Connell saying.

Connell responded to Dow Jones’s questions after the service followed my reports that leading employment website CareerBuilder had laid off more than 300 employees — and possibly as many as 400 — at its Chicago headquarters on Friday. Those cuts came just two months after the company got a $2.9 million tax break from the city of Chicago to enlarge its headquarters there. Majority-owned by Gannett, CareerBuilder had promised to add 185 jobs as part of the expansion.

Connell and other Gannett officials rarely communicate with Gannett Blog. Now, call me crazy, but isn’t Connell — a former USA Today managing editor — confirming what I wrote? The distinction she seems to be drawing is that everyone does this, so it’s misleading for me to suggest this is news. (Trust me: Anytime a publicist tells a reporter that something “isn’t news” — it almost always is.)

‘No information’ about layoffs
Asked today about any layoffs, a CareerBuilder spokesperson told Dow Jones: “I have no information.”

The Dow Jones stories are not online, so I cannot link to them. CareerBuilder has not returned my calls seeking more information. I’m also still waiting for a response from Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development; it granted the tax giveaway in early October. With these layoffs, however, it’s unclear whether CareerBuilder has lost the tax break. The company had threatened to leave Chicago without the public money.

As I noted yesterday, this is at least the second time a Gannett business has won a tax break for creating jobs in one city, while reducing jobs elsewhere.

A tale of two rooms
How Friday’s mass layoff went down, according to recruitment blog Cheezhead: “Certain groups were alerted via e-mail at 12:50 p.m. CT that at 1 p.m. they were to go to a conference. Those going to one room were safe, while those in the other were cut.”

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