Boeing Headquarters Are Going to Move From Chicago to Arlington, Virginia

Chicago will soon lose a major industrial presence in the city. Boeing Co., one of the world’s two main airline plane manufacturers in the world, and a leading defense contractor, is expected to move its headquarters from Chicago to the Washington, D.C., area, according to sources familiar with the subject.

The company aims to be closer to their main customer, the Pentagon

The decision was expected May 5th, the same day it was first announced in the press, both sources being kept anonymous, since they were not authorized to comment on the matter publicly before an official announcement was made by the company. After the news was first released by The Wall Street Journal, Boeing did not immediately comment.

Of course, a move to Arlington, Virginia, makes sense, since it brings Boeing executives close to officials for their key customer, the Pentagon, and the Federal Aviation Administration, which certifies Boeing passenger planes.

Boeing’s roots are in the Seattle area, and it has assembly plants in Washington state and South Carolina. The company moved its headquarters to Chicago in 2001 after an unusually public search that also considered Dallas and Denver. 

“Their Chicago workforce and presence is minimal“, according to an analyst

Although Boeing is a huge name in the US and world industry, they might not get a pushback following this decision, because “their Chicago workforce and presence is minimal“, according to Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with consultant AeroDynamic Advisory. 

Boeing had 142,000 employees at the end of 2021, including 12% based outside the United States, according to a regulatory filing, which did not mention how many of these employees worked in Chicago.

Asked to comment, Boeing said that no major job relocations will happen as a result of this move, and more than 400 employees in Chicago will still use the building.

However, this does not mean Chicago might not lose other types of support by Boeing moving away, as well as part of a few categories of professionals, such as pilots and other types of employees belonging to the aeronautic industry. But the main concern, besides the obvious economical impact this move might have on the Chicago area, is losing a valuable partner for the community which has proven to be a generous one in the past.  

In fall 2020, for instance, Boeing was seeking to help Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students with their studies during the coronavirus pandemic, by providing technology including computer and remote learning equipment to the school system. Boeing announced its new initiative to help Chicago Public Schools students with a $1.5 million grant to the schools through the Children First Fund (CFF), the independent partnership and philanthropy arm for Chicago Public Schools. The Boeing grant provided approximately 4,500 Chicago Public Schools students and 100 educators with computer equipment and other remote learning technology, including headsets.

An economical move with political impact

This move might have a political impact, though, for Chicago and Virginia both. Boeing relocating to Arlington would be a win for Virginia’s Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who promised in last year’s campaign to bring new jobs to the state. Sources say Youngkin, who retired in 2020 as co-CEO of private equity giant the Carlyle Group, was personally involved in discussions about the move and had a prior business relationship with Boeing CEO David Calhoun. The move did not go unnoticed on the other side of the political spectrum either. Democratic state Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw said he had not been advised of the move but if it came to fruition it would be “one hell of a catch” for Virginia. Boeing is not the first major company to move to Arlington, Virginia. Several years ago, another US giant, Amazon, selected Arlington as the site for a second headquarters.

Coming back to the Boeing move, since the public announcement had not yet been made, Suzanne Clark, spokeswoman for the state’s economic development agency, could not comment on the matter, saying it does so for “competitive reasons and to protect confidential company information”. 

Kelly Rindfusz, director of communications for Arlington Economic Development, also refused to comment.

On the Chicago front, Mayor Lightfoot released the following statement on the reported move.

“Chicago is a world-class city and in the last year, 173 corporations relocated or expanded here, and 67 corporations have made that same decision since the start of 2022. While Boeing has decided to move their headquarters to another city, they will still maintain a presence in Chicago. We have a robust pipeline of major corporate relocations and expansions, and we expect more announcements in the coming months. What remains to be true is that Chicago is a major hub for global corporations that recognize our diverse workforce, expansive infrastructure, and thriving economy.”

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