CHICAGO – Boeing Co., the world's largest commercial airplane maker, officially opened for business here on Tuesday with about 200 employees showing up for work at the new world headquarters along the Chicago River.
Chief Executive Phil Condit was to arrive later in the afternoon in preparation for an opening ceremony on Wednesday, said spokesman Larry McCracken. However, other members of top management, like Chief Financial Officer Michael Sears, were present in the new offices.
``Boeing is in the midst of many exciting changes, and our new world headquarters in Chicago is part of our ongoing transformation,'' Condit said in a statement. ``We intend to grow our enterprise here and create businesses that open frontiers and advance technology, while allowing our business leaders in other locations to drive their businesses to their full potential.''
The company, which is also the nation's second-largest defense contractor, moved from its Seattle home of 85 years to shake up its bureaucracy and be closer to Wall Street, Washington D.C. and major customers. It becomes only the second member of the 30 Dow Jones industrial average companies to have headquarters in the Chicago area.
For the year, Boeing's stock has underperformed the index by about 12 percent, lagging amid a downturn in the global airline industry, its biggest customer. Commercial airplane sales total $31 billion out of $51 billion in yearly revenues.
SWEET HOME CHICAGO
Workers arriving via taxi, train, bus and car were greeted by a bright sunny day, a light breeze and comfortable temperatures in the 70s. Boeing employees who arrived earlier this summer were sporting bright blue golf shirts and directing the way to the new offices. Upon reaching their desks, employees found a bud vase with a red rose and a bag full of goodies welcoming them to Chicago.
On Wednesday, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, Illinois Governor George Ryan and Condit will formally kick off operations with a news conference. The state and city kicked in about $60 million in incentives to lure the prestigious corporation to Chicago.
Boeing and its construction partner completed a renovation of the top 12 floors of a downtown skyscraper in record time from the company's announcement that it would move to Chicago.
``It's faster than our experience than anything we have ever done,'' McCracken said. ``It was 117 days from the time we announced on May 10 that Chicago was the site.''
Of 300 offers extended to employees in Seattle, about 175 accepted, McCracken said. By the end of the year, about 400 people will be in place. Boeing employs nearly 200,000 people worldwide. About 80,000 workers remain in the Puget Sound area with Boeing Commercial Airplanes and other units.
Other Boeing businesses remaining in Washington state are Military Aircraft and Missile Systems, research and development arm Phantom Works, Boeing Capital Corp. and Connexion by Boeing, a provider of high-speed in-flight Internet service.