Boeing to move headquarters to Arlington

Boeing will relocate its headquarters from Chicago to Arlington, Virginia, and establish a major research and technology hub.

The decision was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

“We are excited to build 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 technology talent,” said Boeing chief executive Dave Calhoun in a statement.

The relocation will put Boeing, one of the largest federal government defense contractors, shoulder to shoulder with competitors including Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman, all with D.C.-area headquarters.

Boeing said it will maintain a strong presence in Chicago and in Illinois.

Boeing has about 142,000 employees globally. It did not say how many employees would be part of the new Arlington headquarters.

Its new research and technology hub in Northern Virginia will focus on developing cyber security, autonomous operations, quantum sciences and software and systems engineering.

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.”

A spokeswoman for the state’s economic development agency said the project will not receive any state incentives. A spokeswoman for the county’s economic development office did not immediately respond to questions about whether Boeing had been offered local incentives.

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 Virginia’s economic development agency said the project will not receive any state incentives, nor will it receive any from Arlington County, a spokeswoman there said.

Many of Virginia’s elected officials celebrated the news. Democratic state Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw called it “one hell of a catch.”

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.

A relocation for Boeing’s headquarters would be the second time in about 20 years. The aerospace giant moved its headquarters from its longtime base in Seattle in 2001.

Boeing already has a large presence in the D.C. area. Its Defense, Space & Security business is headquartered in Arlington. The company has about 2,400 employees in the D.C. region.

A move to Arlington would put Boeing executives close to officials for their key customer, the Pentagon, as well as the Federal Aviation Administration, which certifies Boeing passenger planes.

While it would be a win for Northern Virginia to add another Fortune 500 headquarters, it likely would not mean a huge influx of jobs. Boeing’s Chicago headquarters housed about 500 employees in 2020.

“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.”

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. The Chicago headquarters housed about 500 employees in 2020.

In 2019, Boeing relocated the headquarters of its Space and Launch operations from Arlington to Titusville, Florida, on Florida’s Space Coast.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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