German luxury automobile maker Mercedes-Benz hasn't even publicly said it's considering moving its U.S. headquarters out of New Jersey, but some state officials are so concerned about the possibility they're campaigning publicly to try to keep the company and its 1,000 jobs where they are.
The possibility of Mercedes-Benz USA, the U.S. marketing and distribution arm of Germany-based Daimler AG, moving from Montvale comes as the state is ramping up its tax incentives to bring companies in and keep those it already has.
A 2013 state law includes a tax break to keep car company headquarters in their current communities. That benefit could be worth about $15 million to Mercedes on top of millions of dollars in other incentives. It also could be used by several other car companies with U.S. headquarters in the state, including BMW, whose main North American office is about 2 miles from Mercedes'.
This year, the state has promised more than $2 billion in tax breaks to companies. Subaru of America agreed to stay, and the Philadelphia 76ers plan to move their offices and practice facility to Camden while continuing to play in Philadelphia, a short drive away.
At the same time, the state has lost some major businesses: Car rental giant The Hertz Corp. is moving to Estero, Florida, with the help of $85 million in tax breaks, and Bubble Wrap maker Sealed Air Corp. is moving to Charlotte, North Carolina, with the aid of $35 million in breaks.
The three state lawmakers who represent the district where Mercedes is located wrote a letter to the company asking it to stay.
One of them, Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, a Republican from River Vale, said she has been speaking with Mercedes executives about incentives to stay and expects the company to make an announcement about its plans in the coming weeks.
"It's something where it goes well beyond just the loss of those jobs," Schepisi said this week. "You're talking about the impact it would have on the small businesses in the area — restaurants, dry cleaners, cleaning crews."
A billboard company, at Schepisi's behest, donated digital ad space on four signs proclaiming Bergen County loves Mercedes-Benz, among the largest employers in the state's most populous county.
Judge Outdoor ad company co-owner Martin Judge said his company had the space, but it would cost about $30,000 for someone else to buy the ads on signs on Routes 17 and 80.
"It's the holidays, and I don't want to see people leave their jobs," Judge said. "I'm hoping they can keep them in New Jersey."
Mercedes, whose vehicles include high-end sedans, SUVs, convertibles and roadsters, isn't commenting on the possibility of moving from the northern New Jersey community where it has had its U.S. headquarters since 1972. Company spokesman Rob Moran this week said reports of an imminent move are "rumors."
"With regard to the billboards, I can offer that we love New Jersey as well," he said in an email. "We have great employees, customers and dealers who live and work here."
The New Jersey Economic Development Authority, which runs the state's business tax incentive programs, said Mercedes has not applied for help. Generally, companies in the state have to show they're considering moving to be eligible for incentives to stay.
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