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Boeing to move headquarters from Chicago to Arlington, Virginia

Boeing, which has housed its corporate headquarters in Chicago since 2001, announced Thursday that it was moving operations closer to government decision-makers in Washington D.C.

CHICAGO (CN) — The Boeing Company announced Thursday afternoon that after two decades of being based in Chicago, it planned to move its corporate headquarters out of the Windy City. The aircraft and arms manufacturer said its campus in Arlington, Virginia would serve as its new HQ, where company executives would be closer to their government clients in Washington, D.C.

“"We are excited to build on our foundation here in Northern Virginia. 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," Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said in a prepared statement.

The move is a win for Republican Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, whom Boeing thanked for his "partnership" as it makes the transition from Chicago to Arlington.

"I look forward to working with Boeing to attract even more talent to Virginia especially given its reputation for engineering excellence," Youngkin said Thursday. "From day one, our goal has been to make Virginia the best place to live, work, and raise a family. I want to thank Boeing, its CEO Dave Calhoun, and its leadership for choosing Virginia." 

The move is a loss for Democratic Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who has attempted to portray herself, and Chicago, as business-friendly. Lightfoot faces increasing scrutiny and low approval ratings heading in to the 2023 Chicago mayoral election, and while she has indicated that she plans to run for re-election, she has not yet officially announced her candidacy.

In a statement released by Lightfoot's office on Thursday, she downplayed Boeing's departure by pointing out that the city is still home to dozens of corporate headquarters. The company also assured City Hall that it plans to maintain a "significant presence" in Chicago and the surrounding region after relocating its headquarters.

"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," Lightfoot said. "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.”

The news came the same day that Lightfoot announced a winning bid from Bally's Corporation to build Chicago's first dry-land casino and resort; a major win for her administration and one of her most prominent goals since taking office in 2019.

Boeing's departure from Chicago will not be the first time the company has relocated its corporate headquarters. It moved to Chicago in 2001 from Seattle, following its merger with the now-defunct McDonnell Douglas Corporation in 1997. In moving closer to the D.C. area, the company said it hoped to be able to invest more in research and development into cyber security and software engineering.

"As part of its effort to tap into engineering and technology talent across the U.S and around the world, Boeing plans to establish a research and technology hub in Northern Virginia," Boeing's statement read. "The hub will focus on developing innovations in the areas of cyber security, autonomous operations, quantum sciences and software and systems engineering."

Moving the company's headquarters to Virginia would also put it closer to the D.C. headquarters of the Federal Aviation Administration, which has increasingly scrutinized Boeing since two of its 737 aircrafts crashed, killing almost 350 people, in 2018 and 2019. Boeing said in its Thursday statement that part of what attracted it to northern Virginia was that its employees in the region "specialize in advanced airplane development and autonomous systems."

Despite this FAA scrutiny, and seeing profit downturns during the Covid-19 pandemic, Boeing still reported over $35.2 million in gross profit for the first quarter of 2022.

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