Boeing begins a new era; first day barely noticed in Chicago, Seattle

As Chicago shrugged off the Labor Day weekend and returned to work yesterday, the morning news shows were abuzz over an energetic new chief executive appearing with the city's most powerful politician.

But contrary to expectations in Seattle, the center of attention was not Boeing CEO Phil Condit on the aerospace giant's first day as a Chicago-based company.

No, the man of the hour was Arne Duncan, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, who was kicking off the first day of classes alongside Chicago Mayor Richard Daley at Davis-Shields Elementary School.

After months of hype and handwringing over the headquarters move, Boeing's first day in its new hometown was a low-key event largely overlooked by residents of this sprawling city on the shore of Lake Michigan.

Even within Boeing, the opening was a minor event compared with the major structural changes under way since March. That's when Condit elevated Alan Mulally, Jerry Daniels and Jim Albaugh to chief executives of the company's commercial airplane, military and space businesses, respectively.

"The key change was when those three were named CEOs," said Boeing spokesman John Dern. "There's been so much focus on the move that a lot of people forget that."

Still, for the 150 to 175 people who showed up for their first day of work at 100 North Riverside Plaza, yesterday was memorable.

Members of Boeing's Shared Services Group, outfitted in royal-blue polo shirts, fanned out in the neighborhood under crisp, cloudless skies to help direct employees to work from adjacent bus, subway and train stations.

Inside, each employee was greeted with a rose in a crystal bud vase and a bag filled with commemorative goodies, from Boeing mugs and coasters to shirts and mouse pads.

Each workstation had new wooden desks and cabinets and Herman Miller Aeron chairs. On each desk, sleek, flat-panel Philips computer monitors plugged into laptop docking stations.

The design of the completed floors is airy and open, with light pouring in from the many window offices that line the building's perimeter. Offices facing north and east enjoy expansive views of Lake Michigan, while those facing south and west look for miles over the suburbs.

As many as 500 construction workers have been toiling round the clock to complete the offices since Boeing announced in May its decision to move into the former headquarters of Morton Salt.

"I think their offices will be a little better than ours," joked Janet Rosenstern, a registered nurse who works for Aetna Health Plans on the building's 19th floor.

Callison Architecture, a Seattle-based firm that has worked on the headquarters of Microsoft and Eddie Bauer, designed the offices.

Boeing occupies the top 12 floors of the 11-year old, 36-story marble, granite and glass building. Several features of the headquarters are still under construction, including a floor of conference rooms, a fitness center and a studio for executives' TV appearances.

Outside, 40 to 50 noisy but well-mannered protesters staged a lunchtime "Un-Welcome to Boeing," objecting to the company's military businesses and some $50 million in tax breaks from local and state officials.

"Boeing makes a killing off killing machines," read one protester's sign.

Boeing will have a more formal house-warming today, when Mayor Daley and Illinois Gov. George Ryan welcome it with speeches and a banner-signing.

In Seattle, Boeing sought to emphasize what hasn't moved: 80,000 employees, the top executives of five business units, its core jetliner design and assembly business, and Condit's cast-off office furniture.

Boeing played up its 85-year history as Seattle's most eponymous corporation. In messages to employees and in a news release, Boeing noted it has given $1.65 million to four nonprofit org-anizations in the Puget Sound area in the past three weeks alone.

"We just wanted to give people a sense that we are not totally pulling up stakes," said Bill Cogswell, a spokesman for Renton-based Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

For some Boeing employees, events in Chicago yesterday were non-events.

"I didn't even think about it this morning, to tell you the truth," said Robin Madsen as she headed out on her lunch break from Boeing's former corporate-headquarters building on East Marginal Way South.

Madsen said things were much more disruptive a couple of weeks ago when Mayflower moving trucks loaded up the possessions of her relocating co-workers. And even that didn't have quite the impact of the February earthquake knocking the headquarters' cafeteria out of commission.

Boeing employee William McCoskey in Everett said the headquarters' defection has been a boon to Boeing's commercial-airplanes group.

As part of its overall consolidation, Boeing has been moving much of its engineering staff to its Bomarc building near Everett's Paine Field. Among them was Walt Gillette, program manager for the proposed Sonic Cruiser program, who had been based in Renton.

"The people who are responsible for our destiny and the destiny of this building are now closer to their people than they have ever been," McCoskey said during a break outside the Bomarc building. "Our leadership is still here."

Meanwhile, with the headquarters move pretty much over, the company is turning to more prosaic tasks. First among them is what to do about the desks, chairs and other equipment left behind.

Most of the items will end up in Kent at Boeing's surplus store, which annually sells $50 million worth of used credenzas, copiers, goggles and other supplies, said Boeing spokesman Bob Jorgensen.

But you won't be able to shop for Condit's old executive desk.

Boeing plans to store it until it decides what to do with the most prominent executive item that belonged to the man who forever will be remembered for pulling Boeing out of Seattle.

"It may have historical significance," Jorgensen said.

David Bowermaster, reporting from Chicago, can be reached at 206-464-2724 or

Kyung M. Song can be reached at 206-464-2423 or