Boeing Considering Selling Seattle Headquarters


Boeing is considering selling its sprawling Commercial Airplanes headquarters near Seattle to trim costs amid the pandemic revelation that most of its office-bound employees can work from home. The company has confirmed that the company is looking at not having a brick and mortar head office at all and embracing the mobility that comes with going to work by flipping up a screen. Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Stan Deal said he wants his people to be “moving around, not planting a flag. Being able to move from site to site freely without being anchored down anywhere,” the Seattle Times reported.

But the news is unsettling to local officials in Seattle who are still coming to grips with the fact that Boeing is moving all 787 Dreamliner manufacturing to its plant in South Carolina. The headquarters is located in suburban Renton and covers 30 acres. More than 1,000 people work there. Boeing tried to allay fears that the real estate deal would mean pulling up stakes in Washington and moving to South Carolina. “Commercial Airplanes leadership will remain in the Puget Sound region,” the company said in a memo to managers.

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  1. Be careful what you ask for (or tacitly allow without pushing back) people of Seattle, Washington and environs … you just might get it. Maybe the “normal” population of that State will — likewise — pull up stakes and go overwhelm some other place, too. At that point, the Duwamish people can rightly reclaim their ancestral lands. This isn’t JUST a reaction to Covid-19 economics; there’s ALWAYS more to the story. Always. Boeing didn’t just establish manufacturing operations in Charleston because they needed more capacity. Fill in the blanks.

    “Will the last person in Seattle please remember to turn out the lights.”

    • I sincerely doubt this is the beginning of a total depopulation of Seattle, for Boeing is just one of many companies finding themselves in a similar situation. If you’re on the board of a for profit corporation trying to remain profitable in times like this, it’s not unreasonable for them to try and reduce fixed costs. And something like a brick and mortar office buildings require a lot of upkeep and expenses every year. If they anticipate keeping many/most of their employees as WFH down the road then why not look at offloading these kinds of facilities?

    • There is a difference between moving an office and closing the doors. Nothing in the article indicated they were downsizing staff and the building, thanks to COVID, was mostly empty anyway. Working from home is a good economical choice and since most of the people working in the headquarters would be salaried, moving them to SC would not do Boeing any favors for they would lose talent quickly. As one who lives in SC, many would opt to find other employment and Boeing would lose a talent pool hard to replace.

      No fan of Boeing, but in this case a smart move to get them through this economic moment. Now if only they could write better programming and bring back, I dunno, Quality Control?

  2. Larry is on to something.

    Seattle has made it quite expensive to live there let alone do business there. Why should Boeing stick around given there are far cheaper options to hang a shingle, never mind the many locations they already have supplemental operations with room to grow. I seriously doubt Boeing will be the last to consider closing shop in that state.

    That used to be such a great city to visit and get away to in addition to all the mountainous area I would spend time at while stationed at Whidbey Island. They had cleaned up the city considerably in the years after I left. They they got even worse than it was and then piled the anti-business nonsense on top of it.

    • The aerospace company I worked for sold their HQ in LA but stayed in it … for a while. Then, they pulled the plug and headed elsewhere when Calyfornya went crazy. They maintain a presence there only because that’s where some of the business is but the bulk of operations and HQ staff reside elsewhere now. Other major aerospace companies did the same and for the same reasons Used to be Calyfornya was the center of the aerospace universe but … no more. I never said Boeing would close down lock stock and barrel but they’d already moved HQ to Chicago. Now they’re selling the commercial HQ building. I DO hear a train coming … let’s just see if I’m right in the future.

      Say … Mayor Sally and SPEEA … you’d better start learning the Southern Lushootseed dialect.

      I summer in a tiny rural town in WI near Oshkosh half of the year. Around here, real estate is red hot predominantly because people are fleeing the cesspools called urban areas. Now toss in the Max8 debacle, economics and Covid and there’s plenty of reasons Seattle better wake up FAST. If you want to grow a garden, you have to start with fertile rich soil, not caliche. I hear they have good soil in SC. Get my drift?

  3. As has been stated already, the “Left Coast” is a very expensive location for doing business and the cost of living for employees is very high as well. This, of course, drives up the sticker price on the product offered. This is probably a great time to start “remodeling” Boeing but the key feature needs to be changing the “flavor” of upper management. The money people need to be sidelined to desks and taken well out of the management part of the business. They are necessary but should not be in charge. Their sole focus is always on the bottom line and stock prices. That attitude is, I am thoroughly convinced, the main cause of Boeing’s woes today. Quality control in the 73, the 78, and the KC-46 are poor based on issues reported by customers and the FAA. Making high quality aircraft requires, obviously, attention to detail and that hasn’t been happening at Boeing. Relying on a single point of failure (AOA), misclamping fuselage sections during mating, FOD in the fuel tanks and boom issues are all problems Boeing never faced before. They have to be the result of shortage of quality control people and front line managers feeling the pressure to “do more, faster, with less people”. Look at the WWII crunch with the B-17. I am sure that they had some issues with quality control but my father’s generation rode those planes into battle and I don’t remember those men complaining about them being POSs. One can easily find, via an extremely short internet search, almost unlimited photos of the -17s coming back to England in various states of extremely bad disrepair from combat damage. But, they were sturdy and CAME BACK! I am not al all sure that some of today’s Boeing products could make that same claim with equivalent level’s of damage. Note I qualified that with the word “equivalent”.
    It is long since past time for Boeing’s Board to get their heads out and get real managers in the the slots and get the money people in their own “wing of offices” where their damage can be minimized.

    • David said

      “Making high quality aircraft requires, obviously, attention to detail and that hasn’t been happening at Boeing”

      But perhaps the problem doesn’t stop at the level of management, quality control checkers and line managers but goes all the way down to the people performing hands on assembly. The people actually performing on the assembly line also need to pay “attention to detail”. What work pool is available and what standards are they held to.

    • “Look at the WWII crunch with the B-17. I am sure that they had some issues with quality control but my father’s generation rode those planes into battle and I don’t remember those men complaining about them being POSs.” Well now, let’s not idealise that Boeing and that production line. My uncle was killed in 1944 on a training flight in Kansas in a newly-built B-17. A report said that a fire broke out in the bomb bay, and it took down the aircraft and some of the crew. I don’t know what caused the fire, but issues with quality control in production could conceivably have been part of it. But you are right, I don’t remember my uncle complaining — or at all, for that matter.

  4. How about selling the Chicago site and move back to Seattle. The disconnects started happening when they moved out of Seattle and just became business managers in a corporate ivory tower far away from their actual manufacturing base.

    • Given the current climate I would not be surprised if they moved out of Chicago (a brief read about the budget problems the city of Chicago currently faces and the proposed fixes for that deficit is interesting) but probably not back to Seattle.

  5. There are cities all over the U.S. (and the world) that would love to have a Boeing plant. Boeing has proven that they can make subassemblies all over the U.S. (and the world)–assembling them in Seattle is not that big a deal.
    I have to agree that Seattle USED to be a great place to live and to visit–20 years ago. Some of the best natural resources and climate in the world. The CLIMATE and the TERRAIN didn’t change–but the PEOPLE certainly did! Perhaps it is “creeping Californianism”–people expecting that “the good life” happens by accident. Instead, high business and personal taxes (and the resulting high cost of living) has made the city untenable–look for more business to follow those from California in relocating.

    Airbus proved that parts can be made almost anywhere before being assembled–Boeing is just now catching up to that fact. Lockheed and Douglas USED to manufacture airplanes in California–but they too “diversified”. Time for “Seattlites” to wake up and realize that no major industry HAS to live there.

    • Either in ’68 or ’72, I remember seeing a bumper sticker in Denver that said, “Don’t Californicate Colorado.” Well … the mythical “they” did. NOW, it seems like that pretty much also fits Seattle except I can’t think of a way to make it rhyme. The sentiment remains the same, though. In 1970, entering NoCal, I thought I’d found the pot O’gold at the end of the rainbow. I even wanted to live in The City. Thirty years later in 1999, happiness was Calyfornya in my rear view mirror on eastbound I-10.

  6. Boeing is financially in a dire situation.. With a negative book value and ongoing major production issues at both Seattle and Charleston, SC. It is very likely that anything and/or everything is on the table.. So, at least they’re trying..!!

  7. This makes perfect sense. Boeings problems started when they moved the HQ to Chicago, believing that their real product is finance instead of airplanes and their executive distance allowed them to concentrate without distractions from those annoying factories. Now instead of correcting their mistake, they are doubling down on it.