Chicago, Dallas, Denver woo giant airplane maker

Saturday, April 7th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Chicago touts its cosmopolitan lifestyle and Lake Michigan. Dallas boasts of no state corporate or income tax and lots of political clout. Denver points out its breathtaking mountain vistas and highly educated workforce.

And they all have plenty of Starbucks coffee.

All three cities are wooing Boeing Co., which after 85 years is moving its headquarters out of Seattle.

The winning suitor will get just 500 front-office employees _ a small blip in employment in cities so large _ but there is a hint of more jobs down the line. And there is the prestige of winning over the biggest airplane manufacturer in the world.

``This is a very big opportunity for our state,'' said Jeff Moseley, executive director of the Texas Department of Economic Development.

Boeing chief executive Phil Condit last month announced plans to move headquarters out of Seattle to save money and to be more central to its operations in 26 states, which include Texas, Colorado and Illinois.

In choosing its new home, Boeing plans to consider access to air and ground travel, the business climate and other economic considerations, and quality of life.

Since they learned that they were on the short list of contenders, all three cities have formed committees of business and government leaders to craft economic incentives to present to Boeing.

Their master strategies are secret, but some campaigning has begun and city leaders have held news conferences to talk up their cities.

Dallas gathered some of the area's sports heroes to shower Condit with gifts, including a cap from Dallas Stars hockey star Mike Modano and a letter from Texas Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez.

``I moved to Dallas-Fort Worth to improve my future,'' wrote Rodriguez, who left the Seattle Mariners to sign a record $252 million contract with the Rangers. ``So should you.''

Not to be outdone, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens and Denver Mayor Wellington Webb have formed the Boeing 100, enlisting the help of Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway, brewing magnate Pete Coors and former United Airlines chief Gerald Greenwald to woo Boeing.

In Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley has been leading his city's lobbying effort.

Boeing officials plan to visit Chicago April 18-19, Dallas April 24-25 and Denver May 1-2. A Boeing relocation committee that includes Condit and other executives is expected to announce its decision later in May.

Most believe incentives such as tax breaks and fee rebates will be a secondary consideration for Boeing.

``The incentives are not going to make or break the deal,'' said James Mejia of the Denver mayor's Office of Economic Development and International Trade. ``They're more symbolic.''

With each city having strengths that appeal to Boeing, aerospace analysts and government and business officials in the three cities can only guess as to which factors will carry the day, and there appears to be no clear front-runner.

``Denver, in terms of lifestyle, would look to be a closer match to what they have in Seattle,'' said Cai Von Rumohr, a Boeing analyst with SG Cowen Securities in Boston. But ``obviously they're not making (the move) for lifestyle reasons, otherwise they would stay in Seattle.''

``I would think Dallas might win on politics.''

Each city has certain advantages.

Is sunshine important to a company that sprouted in the rainy Northwest? Denver has 251 days of it per year, compared with 226 in Dallas and 197 in Chicago, according to a University of Utah study. Seattle has 156 sunny days a year.

How about boating, so popular in Seattle? Chicago wins with its many marinas along Lake Michigan, though Denver isn't far from whitewater rafting on the Colorado River and Dallas has plenty of water skiing on 10 nearby reservoirs.

Educated work force? Colorado has the highest percentage of college graduates among states, according to census estimates. More than a third of Coloradans over 25 have a college degree, compared with 27 percent in Illinois and 23 percent in Texas.

Political clout? Dallas boasts a Texan in the White House, as well as the House majority leader and majority whip. Five Texans are on the House Armed Services Committee, influential in shaping the military contracts so important to Boeing.

Rep. Dennis Hastert of Illinois is House speaker and three Illinois representatives serve on Armed Services.

Colorado Sen. Wayne Allard is chairman of a key subcommittee on the Senate's armed forces panel.

Lifestyle? Denver talks up its proximity to the Rockies for hiking, skiing and camping. On a few days a year, the ambitious athlete can ski in the morning and play golf in the afternoon.

``Our quality of life and workforce is what we'll use to compete,'' Mejia said.

Chicago sings of 7,000 acres of parks, several world-class museums, a diversified economy and cultural diversity.

``There is great quality of life and extraordinary restaurants,'' said Frank O'Connor, executive director World Business Chicago, a nonprofit organization working on luring Boeing. ``We're a genuinely global city. We answer our 911 in 150 languages. You can get Pakistani produce, you can get whatever it is that you need.''

Dallas emphasizes its political pull, which may be helpful in the company's struggle with Lockheed Martin Corp. for the $200 billion Joint Strike Fighter program under consideration by the Pentagon.

And Starbucks?

Denver has two dozen of the java-jolt outlets, while Dallas has 31 and Chicago 93. Seattle, where the coffee trendsetter is based, has 85.