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Corporate Headquarters Will Still Gravitate to Big Cities

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At GE in 2016, then-CEO Jeff Immelt’s plan was to surround himself and his executive team with lots of highly paid people sitting at computers and gathering in meeting rooms in an attempt to be more like a technology company. After he was pushed out in 2017 his successors scaled things back to an HQ staff of about 250. These days that’s known as an “executive headquarters,” usually located in a place with a good airport, fancy restaurants and easy access to lawyers, consultants, investment bankers and other service providers. Several high-profile corporations from smaller Midwestern cities — Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., Caterpillar Inc., Conagra Brands Inc. — have established such bases in Chicago in recent years. So did the extremely high-profile Boeing Co., formerly of Seattle, a few years after it bought St. Louis-based McDonnell-Douglas in 1997.

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