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June 29, 2001
Boeing Luring Employees to Chicago
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ing has committed to moving its headquarters from Seattle to Chicago, but now it must convince its employees to do the same.

The aerospace giant has wined and dined prized personnel on Chicago's Michigan Avenue, floated them down the Chicago River on architectural tours of The Loop, and pressed dozens of Chicago-area real-estate agents into service to provide one-on-one tours of neighborhoods and homes, the Seattle Times reports.

The move is officially set for Sept. 4, and signs of the dramatic personal and professional changes ahead are widespread, according to the newspaper.

Seattle headquarters employees must not only decide whether to stay or go, but also deal with shifting lines of responsibility, as Boeing clarifies some of the significant management changes that will accompany the move.

And Boeing recruiters are gearing up for the weekend job fair to fill gaps left by the many employees who have already decided to remain behind - roughly half of the 400 to 500 who received offers.

The Times says the company won't say how many employees have decided to transfer. But Boeing Vice Chairman Harry Stonecipher told reporters at the Paris Air Show last week, "We think about 200 will move, and we will hire about 200" in Chicago.

While it prepares to hire people already living in Chicago, the company has taken four groups of workers from Seattle on all-expenses-paid visits to The Windy City to help them decide whether to move.

All have started with a United Airlines charter flight from Seattle to Chicago on a Thursday evening. They have featured accommodations at the Westin Hotel on Michigan Avenue, and an opening-night dinner with speakers from local education, government, and real-estate organizations.

After an overview of the region from Realtors on Friday morning, one group cruised the Chicago River, then visited the new headquarters facility - the former home of the Morton salt company at 100 N. Riverside Plaza.

From there, the group rode busses to different regions of greater Chicago to view neighborhoods and get a first look at housing. Saturday was spent one-on-one with Realtors to gather additional information.

Boeing is offering further inducements to employees who commit to the move: a second, nine-day house-hunting trip; moving expenses for all household items and up to two cars; temporary housing, if necessary; and assistance with home transactions in both Seattle and Chicago, including payment of closing costs and other fees.

Unemployment in the Chicago metropolitan area was 5 percent in May, up from 3.9 percent a year ago.

The area has been hit hard by weakness in the manufacturing and high-tech sectors, said John Challenger, chief executive officer of the Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas.

Consequently, Challenger expects Boeing to draw a big crowd.

"There will no doubt be a heavy supply of people who are excited by the opportunity to go to work for Boeing," Challenger told the Times. "My guess is they'll have thousands" of candidates.

To view the Seattle Times article, click here.
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