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Ohio officials: La-Z-Boy hasn't talked to us

Local development agency says it wasn't contacted on HQ plans

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Furniture maker La-Z-Boy is considering moving its operations away from Monroe, Mich.

The Blade
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Monroe, Mich.-based La-Z-Boy Inc., which is looking at sites for a new world headquarters building and said it would be open to relocating to other parts of southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio, does not appear to have contacted economic development officials in the Buckeye state as yet.

"We have not had any conversations with La-Z-Boy, nor have we offered them any incentives," said Laura Jones, a spokesman for JobsOhio, the quasiprivate nonprofit agency created by Ohio Gov. John Kasich to oversee state economic development efforts.

A spokesman from the state Department of Development said the department could not comment on whether it has had any dealings with La-Z-Boy, but added that unless tax incentives were about to be granted it would not be involved. The spokesman deferred questions to JobsOhio.

It appears the Michigan furniture maker also has yet to touch base with the Regional Growth Partnership about sites in northwest Ohio. In an emailed response, RGP President Dean Monske said, "We have not talked with" La-Z-Boy.

It's possible that La-Z-Boy has talked with a particular city or county in northwest Ohio.

What is known is that the maker of the La-Z-Boy recliner has been heavily involved in talks for three months with officials from Michigan, including those from Monroe County, the city of Monroe, and Frenchtown Township.

"At this point, everything is sort of preliminary. It's all been preliminary discussions," company spokesman Kathy Liebmann said. "Until things are finalized, there's little more we can say."

In a statement released Thursday, the company said it has considered a number of options for a new site that will house the 500 employees at its headquarters. It added that it has narrowed its choices to Monroe and other unspecified sites in southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio.

La-Z-Boy indicated it plans to have a decision on a new site by year's end and has been focused on a land-purchase agreement with the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which is based in Monroe.

That timetable would aid greatly the city of Monroe, which is trying to assemble a new master plan and redo zoning for the Immaculate Heart of Mary site. Monroe Mayor Robert Clark said Friday the city's rezoning efforts probably would take at least four months.

"La-Z-Boy said they're looking to make a final decision by the end of the year and I anticipate our process will take that long. … It's not a rushed process," he said.

The mayor said he is absolutely convinced that La-Z-Boy will go elsewhere if it cannot obtain zoning and other incentives to remain in Monroe, but he does not expect it will come to that.

"When you have a large corporation like La-Z-Boy that's nationwide, they do look at relocating and all other offers. They like to invest in the community and I think they have had viable offers from other areas in the region, from adjoining states, and elsewhere," Mr. Clark said.

But the mayor said he is optimistic. "I think their discussions with the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary gives us the opportunity to meet some of their needs regarding some economic assistance at the levels that have been stated," he said.

"I think La-Z-Boy is identified with the city of Monroe. It would be disappointing if we would not continue that long relationship," the mayor added.

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.

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