Atlanta could be in Fortune 500 company’s sights

Count Atlanta in the list of cities hoping to land the global headquarters of agricultural giant Archer Daniels Midland, a roughly $90 billion company that would be the largest business based in Georgia if it comes.

A “site selection team” representing Decatur, Ill.-based ADM met with Atlanta’s economic development arm this week, an individual with direct knowledge of the company’s search process told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday.

The Wednesday visit to Invest Atlanta comes amid the well-publicized search for ADM’s new home base, which has reportedly included St. Louis, Denver, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Chicago.

ADM ranks 27th on the Fortune 500 list, making it bigger than Home Depot, the largest company currently headquartered in Georgia. The food processing company is about the size of Procter & Gamble.

An ADM spokeswoman declined to confirm if company officials have toured Atlanta, or if the metro area was on its short list.

“We’ve made a decision to locate our global headquarters (to) another city. It’s not a huge list,” ADM spokeswoman Victoria Podesta told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday. “At this point we haven’t ruled any in or any out from that list.”

A spokesman for the city of Atlanta declined comment Thursday.

In September, ADM said it was weighing a decision to create a new “global headquarters and customer center.” ADM Chairman and CEO Patricia Woertz said that the company needs a new command 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,” she said last month. ADM said in a news release that the scope of the operations center is expected to be about 200 jobs, including a new IT center. ADM plans to keep its large campus in Decatur, Ill., about 180 miles southwest of Chicago.

The company said its search is heavily focused on costs of doing business, air connectivity and access to a skilled and diverse workforce.

Headquarters for Fortune 500 companies often are aggressively pursued by states because of the potential for high-paying jobs, as well as the belief that they boost a community’s image and ability to attract other companies.

Atlanta appears to be the latest would-be paramour in one of the more public courtships of a major corporation in recent memory.

ADM formerly billed itself as the world’s supermarket, and apparently when it comes to being wooed by job-hungry cities and states, ADM is keeping its doors open.

How serious it might be about Atlanta isn’t clear. Having a number of cities in the running could increase pressure for communities to up incentives to attract the company.

Illinois lawmakers are weighing whether to provide the company with $24 million in perks to stay in the Land of Lincoln. The state also has been generous to other companies that threatened to leave, including retailer Sears Holdings and the parent company of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

Earlier this week, ADM spokeswoman Podesta was quoted in an Associated Press article as saying the company is “aware” of Illinois’ past decisions to give steep incentives to companies that threatened to move, saying “it creates precedent.”

“We need to be able to do (business) in a cost-effective way,” Podesta told the AJC, adding that incentives are part of the company’s evaluations.

Staff writer Katie Leslie contributed to this article.

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