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Boeing's Albaugh, top staff to move to office space in Seattle tower

The  headquarters today of the Boeing Commercial Airplanes Division is on Oakesdale Avenue in Renton. - Dean A. Radford/Renton Reporter
The headquarters today of the Boeing Commercial Airplanes Division is on Oakesdale Avenue in Renton.
— image credit: Dean A. Radford/Renton Reporter

It seems that Renton is going to have to share the title of world headquarters for Boeing's Commercial Airplanes Division with the rest of Puget Sound.

At least that's not Chicago, where Boeing's corporate executives planted their flag in 2001 on the city's Near West Side, leaving Seattle and environs feeling jilted. They were looking for a more central location for their global company.

Now, sometime this spring, Jim Albaugh, the division's president and CEO, will plant his flag in downtown Seattle, taking with him about 80 employees now at the headquarters building at Boeing's Longacres complex in Renton.

He's also looking for more space and a more central location between Everett and Renton. About 2,000 Boeing employees will remain at Longacres, part of the company's total Renton payroll of about 13,000.

A Boeing spokesman said it would be incorrect to say that the headquarters for the commercial division is now in Seattle. The headquarters won't reside in any one building, he says. "It's best to consider the headquarters as Puget Sound," said the spokesman, Tom Brabant.

Still, that is a change. The commercial division was headquartered in north Renton for decades before it moved to the Longacres complex in the late 1990s.

Albaugh and corporate and business staff of the commercial division will occupy two floors (about 45,000 square feet) in the Russell Investment Centers on Second Avenue in downtown Seattle. It's 42 stories; Boeing's corporate headquarters is in a 36-story Chicago skyscraper.

Albaugh will maintain an office in Renton, where the ever-popular, single-aisle 737 is built, and in Everett, where Boeing's two-aisle airplanes are built – the 767, 777, and now the 787 Dreamliner.

"He'll spend a lot of time at both locations," Brabant said.

Of course, Boeing has been in Renton a lot longer than in Everett, where the company in 1968 started building the 747, the world's largest jetliner. That was roughly the same year Boeing started production of the 737 in Renton.

Boeing built its first airplane in Renton in 1941, an experimental flying boat used for reconnaissance. The jet age was launched in Renton, where Boeing produced its first-ever jet, the 707, in 1954.

In the 1970s the Renton Chronicle called Renton the "jet capital of the world" across the top of its front page.

Boeing has about 925,000 square feet of space at the two Longacres buildings on Oakesdale Avenue Southwest, but the company has outgrown the office space as its employee numbers have increased, Brabant said.

The 80 or so employees moving to Seattle from Renton will include such front-office departments as sales and customer support, communications and marketing, business development, human resources and the legal and financial departments.

And it makes sense to have executives in downtown Seattle, where airplane customers typically stay, Brabant said.

Mayor Denis Law said Boeing hasn't asked for any additional space, other than at the 737 production plant.

A Seattle business blogger put the decision to move to Seattle this way when it was initially announced last year:

"Part of the reason for the addition is that the Boeing (NYSE: BA) Renton-Tukwila commercial airplanes headquarters building, while modern, is in the middle of a relative wasteland in terms of restaurant and hotel amenities for airline executives and highly placed government officials who make aircraft purchase decisions."

Law offered an alternative view.

"While I wouldn't define the headquarters area as a wasteland, it clearly doesn't have hotels or restaurants in the immediate vicinity," he said. "The 'wasteland' certainly is good enough for the regional headquarters of the Federal Reserve Bank and a new facility for Bank of America."

 

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