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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

November 25, 2009 at 10:00 AM

McDonnell Boeing reminds us where we stand

Top of the News: I really, really keep wanting to give Boeing the benefit of the doubt — that maybe it’s not making a slow, steady exodus from the Puget Sound, that it’s senior executives don’t have it out for us.

Then comes another twist of the knife: The top executive overseeing corporate philanthropy will be in St. Louis, former home of McDonnell Douglas. Boeing Commercial will lose its vice president position in that role here. Moreover, the new chief, George Roman, is a McDonnell alumnus.

A Boeing spokesman said, “Titles and location aside, if we are giving the same amount of money to great causes in our community, then what has changed? Nothing has changed in that realm at all.” Color me skeptical. North Charleston, after all, will need its share and where will that come from?

At the least, this is another forceful sign of what happens when a city loses major corporate headquarters. It matters where the CEO lives. Otherwise, you’re just another “market” in line for whatever the corporation chooses to dole out. Massive industry consolidation over the past 30 years has devastated cities with the loss of leadership, investment and giving as local headquarters were absorbed into the huge blobs of transnational companies.

In Seattle, a place much more fortunate than most, recent events have not been comforting. Washington Mutual was absorbed into the Borg, I mean JPMorgan Chase, and the July 4th fireworks sponsorship will go away. Now Macy’s, which already closed its Northwest headquarters here with the loss of 750 good jobs, is evaluating whether it will keep its iconic holiday parade going. Add Boeing to the list, consequences to come.

Seattle’s biggest challenges now are to create new companies that grow and stay — in capital markets that want a quick profit and merger — and continue its unusual record of local stewardship. Meanwhile, it must also keep attracting the talent and offering the quality of life that makes it a world-class city.

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Graveyard of empires

Obama will make his choice

On loans from China

Comments | More in Aerospace/Boeing

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