Boeing employees formerly based at the Commercial Airplanes headquarters campus in Renton have been instructed to clear out their stuff over the next few weeks, according to two people involved.
The emptying out of the headquarters, where more than 1,000 people worked before the pandemic, is a clear sign that Boeing is preparing the site for sale.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know where this is going,” said one of the employees. “We’ve cleared out. It’s a recognition that the future will bring a combination of virtual work and hoteling.”
The second employee said the complex is not yet formally on the market but that Boeing seems to be “getting the building in shape to sell.”
“We are packing up,” he said, adding that it’s an “orderly transition” with various teams scheduled to go in at different times so as to avoid too many people in the building at one time.
The 215-acre complex in Renton, built 30 years ago on the site of the former Longacres horse-racing track, has two major buildings with 855,000 square feet of office space, set in a spacious landscape of trees and manicured lawns.
Faced with a need to cut costs massively during the pandemic-driven downturn in the aviation business, Boeing said in October it is considering selling off the local headquarters as well as other excess real estate.
Most of those based at the Longacres site have been working from home during the pandemic, and Boeing said it is reassessing its need for future office space after the business recovers.
The company is considering allowing some employees to continue remote work. Others may come in to work at desks set up in various offices — a peripatetic work arrangement sometimes called “hoteling” because an employee could check in at a desk for a day, then on another day at a different desk, perhaps even in a different building.
A senior Boeing executive told The Seattle Times in October that Commercial Airplanes CEO Stan Deal is leaning toward effectively ditching the concept of having a headquarters at all: Deal wants himself and his leadership team to be mobile and to work closer to the airplane assembly lines instead of in an isolated corporate tower.
Deal wants to be “moving around, not planting a flag. Being able to move from site to site freely without being anchored down anywhere,” the senior executive said then.
That’s already happening, said the second employee this week. Although some of the leading executives still have desks at Longacres, Deal has relocated to another office and plans to move around between offices in Everett, Renton and Seattle depending on the day’s business.
He also plans to travel at least once a month, as he was already doing, to Boeing’s East Coast commercial airplane site in North Charleston, South Carolina.
Boeing declined to comment on the clearing out of the Longacre offices, which was first reported Wednesday by the Puget Sound Business Journal.
In a statement, Boeing reiterated that it is still weighing a possible sale of the campus, while adding that, whatever the final decision, “Boeing Commercial Airplanes leadership will remain in the Puget Sound region.”