Boeing will shift its headquarters to Arlington, Virginia, from Chicago, a long-anticipated move that would put one of the nation’s largest defense contractors near federal government decision-makers in Washington.
The planemaker said Thursday that its campus outside the nation’s capital will serve as the new corporate office. Boeing also plans to establish a research and technology hub nearby to attract engineers.
“The region makes strategic sense for our global headquarters given its proximity to our customers and stakeholders, and its access to world-class engineering and technical talent,” Chief Executive Officer Dave Calhoun said in a statement.
Boeing executives said in 2020 that they were open to relocating the world headquarters from the Chicago office tower that has served as the company’s home base for about two decades. Its new building in Arlington overlooking the Pentagon had been a subject of speculation about a possible headquarters move, particularly with Calhoun and several other senior leaders based on the East Coast.
The planemaker, which has been bleeding cash and looking to cut costs, has been shrinking its real estate footprint as more white-collar workers go remote. It recently sold an office park south of Seattle that housed its commercial headquarters.
Boeing’s shares fell 4.4% to $150.05 at 3:43 p.m. in New York, in line with the broader market decline. The stock has dropped about 25% this year as the company struggled to clear regulatory hurdles to resuming 787 deliveries.
The potential move to the nation’s capital would also put Boeing closer to defense rivals such as Lockheed Martin Corp., Northrop Grumman Corp. and General Dynamics Corp. Boeing had been based in Seattle for most of its century-long history before relocating to Chicago a few years after its 1997 merger with McDonnell Douglas.
Chicago will be losing its largest manufacturer, but the impact may be largely symbolic. The vast majority of the company’s 142,000 workers are in factories or other cities far removed from the corporate office. Boeing’s tower at 100 North Riverside Plaza has been desolate since the beginning of the pandemic, with many employees working from home or accepting buyout terms in 2020 and early 2021 that provided as much as a year’s salary.
Boeing didn’t say how many jobs would be relocated. The company said Thursday that it would “maintain a significant presence” in the Chicago area, while also acknowledging that “less office space will be required for the employees who will continue to be based there.”
While Boeing hasn’t been actively marketing the building, officials have indicated they’re open to serious offers, according to another person familiar with the company. The tower that Boeing owns is in a prime location: overlooking the Chicago River, near a commuter rail hub and on the edge of a bustling district west of the city’s Loop that has attracted the likes of Google.
When Chicago beat out the likes of Dallas and Denver to nab the Boeing headquarters in 2001, the city knew it would be landing the kind of high-paying jobs that can boost economic development. The average salary for professionals relocating to the city was more than $1 million, with the tally boosted by the team’s senior executives.
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