Chicago has edged out rivals Dallas and Denver to become the location for Boeing's new world headquarters because of its combination of location and financial incentives. In a separate move linked to the company's efforts to become more global, Boeing is to locate its European research and development centre in Madrid, Spain.

The US aerospace giant will move its slimmed-down corporate headquarters from Seattle to Chicago by 4 September. Chairman Phil Condit, who made the final choice between the three US cities, says "no single factor" made the difference, but the "ability to get anywhere in the world" from Chicago was attractive. Boeing wanted a location that provides easier access to its major business units, Wall Street and Washington, DC, than does Seattle.


Boeing's decision to relocate the company's headquarters was driven by its desire to be perceived by Wall Street as more than just a commercial aircraft manufacturer. The move to Chicago will separate the corporate centre from Boeing's three core business groups: Commercial Airplanes in Seattle; Military Aircraft & Missile Systems in St Louis; and Space & Communications in Los Angeles.

"When co-located with one business unit, the ones you are not with think it gets special attention and the one you are with is sure you are meddling with its business," says Condit.

The new corporate centre will focus on strategy, resource allocation and incubating new businesses. "We have three major businesses now. Five years from now we will have four or five business units," he says.

Boeing's corporate staff will be pruned from 1,000 to between 400 and 500 as part of the move. Almost 78,000 employees will remain in the Puget Sound area, but Seattle faces a challenge in holding on to Boeing's commercial aircraft work. Programme officials say a decision on where the Sonic Cruiser high-speed airliner will be built has yet to be taken.

"The challenge in the Seattle area is transportation," Condit says. "We fabricate in the south, but assemble in the north. If the issues are solved, jobs will stay in Seattle, but if we decide we have to move we will make that decision."

Twenty four hours after choosing Chicago, Boeing announced that Spain will be the site of the new European research and development (R&D) headquarters. Located in Madrid, the centre will be one of a handful of R&D capabilities Boeing plans to set up outside the US.

The company has joined forces with the University of Catalonia which, it says, will bring its technical expertise to a venture responsible for developing aircraft management systems and investigating environmental improvements such a noise and smoke emissions in aircraft. The centre should be operational by the end of the year.

Boeing already has a design centre in Moscow that employs some 700 people and designs components for commercial aircraft.

Source: Flight International