On May 10, 2001, around 12:00 PM CST, a group of Seattle residents boarded a plane to travel to Chicago. They wouldn't be residents of Seattle much longer. This was no ordinary trip. When word got out that their plane was in the air, the Mayor of Chicago, the Governor of Illinois and many other citizens of the Chicagoland area canceled their plans so they could come to Midway Airport and greet this Seattle group when they landed. Once the Seattleans landed, their leader Phillip M. Condit addressed the Chicagoans.
"We are here not because we wanted to leave Seattle, but because we wanted to build a bigger, more capable Boeing, Co."
He couldn't have picked a better city to do just that.
Chicago Fire win this game for Boeing.One of the things that is often lost on even people who live in Chicago is just how big a role our city plays in the world. New York City, London, Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong - those seem like megawatt cities. The real movers and shakers. Chicago is indeed a second-city when thinking about those metropolises. However in 2010, the Global Cities Index released its bi-annual report that ranks cities on business activity, human capital, information exchange, cultural experience, and political engagement. Chicago was right behind all five of those cities at a solid No. 6. Our windy patch of land even moved up two spots between 2008 and 2010 to pass Los Angeles and Singapore. The large glass and steel buildings don't just make up a pretty skyline. They also contain millions of square feet that host major engines of economic success.
O'Hare International Airport is a vital economic engine for the region too. It used to be the busiest airport in the world but that title was ceded to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport sometime in the last decade (depending on what metrics you use, the date changes but all metrics have been surpassed by the HAT if you will). While Atlanta's airport may have more flights, the city does not rank as highly with Chicago when it comes to other factors like a talented work force, business activity, the location of other corporate headquarters, and quality of life. When Boeing was looking at a new city to move to, Atlanta was not even in the running. Boeing went with Chicago because they determined it was the best way for them to maintain and grow their own global status.
Chicago patting itself on the back for having the corporate headquarters of Boeing on April 9, 2011 is not without some irony. I'll grant you that. I'm sure you have seen the news headlines about the troubles of Boeing's 737s. Chicago isn't doing so hot either having lost 200,000 in the population between 2000 and 2010. In fact, Chicago was the only city in the top ten of American cities that lost population at all. Perhaps someone from Seattle would quip Boeing corporate and Chicago are a good fit for each other. Boeing didn't even move any production here, just their corporate headquarters. It was reported that only 500 jobs would be at the headquarters when the move originally took place. So much for 'The City That Works' huh? Chicago is on the downfall. Becoming an aging Midwestern relic like Detroit is obviously the next step.
Back in January, I took a snapshot of the team when the picture wasn't complete. There are still some things that need to be ironed out on the field and in the front office but few could argue the ship seems as rudderless as it did back then. I like to think that the census was a similar snapshot of our Chicago home here. Things will rise again but it's going to take work. These are important issues to think about because there may be an auto-pilot button but I've yet to encounter a switch, lever, or iPhone app that provides auto-greatness. The natural state of things is disorganization. If you don't do something as simple as put a couple of ounces of oil in the two ton machine that is your car, it will cease to operate slowly over time. Think about that as you head to work next time or while you are coming up with the next big idea of your own to beautify Chicago. Who knows, maybe one day you'll be part of something that attracts a company founded and headquartered for almost 100 years somewhere else, to up and join us here in Chicago. For now, I hope you can make the game and when the Chicago Fire fly back to Seattle, we'll have Boeing and 3 points to celebrate.