Boeing Co., a leading defense contractor and one of the world’s two dominant manufacturers of airline planes, is expected to move its headquarters from Chicago to the Washington, D.C., area, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The decision could be announced as soon as later Thursday, according to one of the people. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly before Boeing’s announcement.
Boeing did not immediately comment.
The decision was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
A move to Arlington, Virginia, would put 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.
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 would mark a win for Virginia’s Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who campaigned last year in part on a promise to bring new jobs to the state.
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, according to one of the people familiar with the matter.
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.
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.
Kelly Rindfusz, director of communications for Arlington Economic Development, also declined to comment.
The news comes several years after Amazon selected Arlington as the site for a second headquarters.
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.”