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Boeing announces plans to move Global Headquarters from Chicago to Arlington

Boeing President and Chief Executive Officer Dave Calhoun said he is excited to build on the company’s foundation in Northern Virginia.

ARLINGTON, Va. — Boeing Co., a leading defense contractor and one of the world's two dominant manufacturers of airline planes, announced plans Thursday to move its headquarters from Chicago, Illinois, to Arlington, Virginia. 

The aerospace and defense firm plans to develop a research and technology hub in the area to “harness and attract engineering and technical capabilities.”

Boeing President and Chief Executive Officer Dave Calhoun said he is excited to build on the company’s foundation in Northern Virginia.

A move to Arlington, Virginia, will put Boeing executives close to officials for their key customer - the Pentagon - and the Federal Aviation Administration, which certifies Boeing passenger planes.

“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," Calhoun said.

Calhoun also thanked Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin for his partnership and Senator Mark Warner for his support. 

The decision was first reported by The Wall Street Journal

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.

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

“They won’t get pushback since their Chicago workforce and industry presence is minimal,” said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with consultant AeroDynamic Advisory. “Since D.C. is home to their biggest single customer, it makes some sense, but it’s a much less impressive move than going back to Seattle.”

The move marks a win for Virginia’s Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who campaigned last year on a promise to bring new businesses and jobs to the state.

“The decision to call Virginia home shows that the Commonwealth is the premier location for aerospace companies," Youngkin said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Boeing to attract even more talent to Virginia especially given its reputation for engineering excellence.”

Youngkin retired in 2020 as co-CEO of private equity giant the Carlyle Group. He was personally involved in discussions about the move and had a prior business relationship with Calhoun, who also was an executive in the investment industry, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to discuss the negotiations publicly.

A spokeswoman for the state's economic development agency said the project will not receive any state incentives. Suzanne Clark, spokeswoman for the state’s economic development agency, said that for “competitive reasons and to protect confidential company information,” the agency cannot comment on current or potential economic development prospects.

 A spokeswoman for the county’s economic development office did not immediately respond to questions about whether Boeing had been offered local incentives.

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

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

Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with consultant AeroDynamic Advisory, said Boeing's Chicago workforce “is minimal,” making the move easier.

Credit: AP
The Dulles International Airport Air Traffic Control Tower is seen from the door of a Boeing 777 aircraft in Sterling, Va., Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Rep. Peter DeFazio, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, which investigated Boeing and the FAA after the Max crashes, criticized Boeing’s move to be closer to federal policymakers.

“Boeing should focus on making safe airplanes, not lobbying federal regulators and Congress,” he said.

Meanwhile, many of Virginia’s elected officials celebrated the news.

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.

“We’re lucky to get them,” he said.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Boeing’s decision was a testament to Virginia’s skilled workforce and strong national security community.

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, also a Virginia Democrat and a former entrepreneur and investor, indicated the deal had been in the works for quite some time.

“For well over a year, I’ve been making my case to Boeing senior leadership that Virginia would be a great place for its headquarters, and late last year, I was happy to learn that my efforts were successful,” he said in a statement.

The company's statement thanked both Youngkin and Warner.

Boeing will be following in the footsteps of Amazon, which decided to put a second headquarters in Arlington. Last month, local officials approved Amazon's plans to erect a 350-foot helix-shaped building.

Credit: NBBJ/Amazon
"The Helix, an alternative workplace integrating work with nature, will be open to the public select weekends every month," Amazon said.

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