- Associated Press - Thursday, February 6, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A proposal to offer a relocation package to Sears that would have included moving its headquarters from Illinois into the Tennessee Tower state office building was meant as a temporary measure until permanent space could be found, the state’s economic development chief said.

Economic and Commissioner Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty said after a State Building Commission meeting on Wednesday that documents about the proposal obtained by WTVF-TV in Nashville did not reflect the final proposal to try to persuade the company to bring more than 6,000 jobs to Nashville in 2011.

“It’s one of those things that we talked about, but we never presented it to the company,” Hagerty said. “We talk about a lot of ideas - some of them are more interesting and more germane than others.”

More than 1,000 employees from numerous agencies work in the building the state bought from the American General Life and Accident Insurance Co. in 1994.

Hagerty said the tower was considered because it could house large numbers of workers on short notice.

“If Sears had accepted an offer from anybody to move, they would have been persona non grate pretty fast in Illinois,” he said. “So we figured they’d want to move quickly.”

Talks with the Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based company never got beyond preliminary stages, and the company ultimately did not move.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration had long refused to address rumors about the Tennessee Tower, and the department cited confidentiality laws in denying open records requests about Sears proposal in 2011.

Asked by The Associated Press about the tower offer in August 2011, Haslam declined to comment on any specifics. But he said he supported innovative ways to attract investors.

WTVF obtained a copy of the proposal called “Project Neptune” that included incentives and tax credits worth more than $500 million. The documents included a script for Haslam to read to entice Sears to move to Tennessee.

“We’re so committed to making your new home in Tennessee that we are prepared to offer you one of the premiere buildings in Nashville’s thriving downtown,” according to the script.

“This highly visible and historic building offers over 600,000 square feet of prime office space - located conveniently across from Legislative Plaza and a stone’s throw away from my office in the state Capitol,” it said.

Hagerty called the documents “old news.”

“It just has to do with somebody taking some document midstream in our communication - that was never presented to Sears,” he said. “They found an old script, but we typically look at, and bounce around a lot of ideas.

“But it proved to be too complicated, so we never even presented it to Sears,” he said.

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