End of era: Motorola Solutions HQ leaving Schaumburg after 50 years

Motorola Solutions Inc. is moving its global headquarters to Chicago after about 50 years in Schaumburg, where its sprawling corporate campus helped set the standard for companies across the suburbs.

The maker of communications equipment for government and first-responders will send 800 jobs to Chicago by next summer along with its headquarters operations.

Employees left in Schaumburg, primarily software and hardware engineers, will number only about 1,600 consolidated into two buildings, the 12-story corporate tower and the 2-story IT building.

The entire 277-acre campus, once home to thousands of employees, will be put up for sale for redevelopment and then Motorola Solutions plans to lease those two buildings from the new owners, said company spokeswoman Tama McWhinney.

"People come, people go," Schaumburg Mayor Al Larson said. "Motorola has been going for quite some time."

Larson said the company's presence has created permanent benefits that won't be erased. While Motorola's departure means Schaumburg loses the prestige of the corporate headquarters, it opens other doors, Larson said.

"It gives us now an opportunity to redevelop over 200 acres of prime real estate," he said.

Motorola Solutions Chairman and CEO Greg Brown made the joint announcement Tuesday with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who said the move would allow the company to "gain the access to talent that they need for the future we are all building here, in Chicago."

Motorola Solutions also announced about 200 employees in its manufacturing and delivery operations will move from Schaumburg to Elgin by next summer with the potential to hire another 200 workers. This group assembles and customizes radios and network infrastructure equipment.

Elgin city councilman Terry Gavin earlier called that move "a big victory for the city and a big victory for the (Elgin Area) Chamber of Commerce."

Though Schaumburg officials have been anticipating a move by Motorola Solutions for a while, company officials did not tip off the village about Tuesday's announcement.

Larson said he found humor in some media outlets characterizing Schaumburg's next step as "picking up the pieces."

"Schaumburg isn't falling apart," Larson laughed. "We have a great town. It's not great just because of Motorola."

While the Motorola campus did not generate significant sales tax, it set the standard for the quality of companies that have followed in its wake, Larson said. He pointed to the developing campuses of Zurich North America and Sunstar Americas Inc. on or near the Motorola Solutions campus as evidence that a post-Motorola future has been in the works for some time.

Motorola has been shrinking for most of this century, and the village created a tax-increment finance district - where property taxes going to local governments are frozen at a certain point and taxes above that go back into development - running along Algonquin Road a few years ago with an eye toward finding new opportunities for the Motorola campus, Larson said. The village will continue to attract high-tech companies, he said, noting the presence of Japanese technology firms in Schaumburg.

Larson challenged the notion that companies are relocating to Chicago because that's where all the young professionals are.

"What happens when these young people get older and raise a family and look for good schools," Larson asked. "Do they get booted out?"

Motorola Solutions is a major donor to the new "Harper Promise" program, which offers two years of free tuition at Palatine-based Harper College to high-achieving high school graduates.

Laura Brown, chief advancement officer of the Harper College Educational Foundation, said she does not anticipate Motorola Solutions's moving its headquarters will have any effect on the company's commitment to the program.

Brown said Harper College and Motorola Solutions have a strong relationship, one not dependent on geographical proximity.

In the announcement Tuesday, Brown said Motorola Solutions is returning to its roots in Chicago.

"Our company began in this city 87 years ago, and we're pleased to announce that our headquarters is coming home," he said. "This is another transformative step in ensuring a future of continued innovation, and will provide us with greater access to high-tech talent."

The 800 workers are moving to 500 W. Monroe St., where the company will have about 150,000 square feet on six floors. The Chicago office will house the chief technology office, information technology and human resources, among others.

Motorola Solutions also will maintain its current sales headquarters for the Americas at 224 S. Michigan Ave., which houses about 300 employees in a 46,000-square-foot space.

Motorola Solutions did not receive any city or state incentives to move the headquarters into Chicago, McWhinney said.

She said the company made the decision to get direct access to software talent, including data scientists, user experience designers, interface designers and software developers, which is important for the company's future.

In 2011, Motorola Inc. spun off two publicly traded companies: Motorola Solutions and Motorola Mobility. Mobility has since been bought by Google Inc. and then Lenovo Group Ltd., and its headquarters moved from Libertyville to downtown Chicago in 2012. Last month, it began laying off 500 people, 25 percent of its Chicago workforce.

Earlier this year, Wall Street analysts speculated Motorola Solutions would be sold, but no deals have been announced yet. Analysts believed the company could fetch $17 billion or more. One of its main attractions is its global domination for public safety radio handset, infrastructure, software and services. It also has several long-term contracts with those customers, which is appealing and could continue under a new owner, analysts said.

Greg Brown
  The Motorola campus in Schaumburg, with construction in the background. Mark Welsh/
  Construction started in 2013 for the new $300 million Zurich North America headquarters. The company had purchased a portion of the Motorola campus in Schaumburg. Mark Welsh/
Motorola Solutions is leaving Schaumburg for Chicago. DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTO

History of Motorola’s Schaumburg campus

1964: Motorola acquires the 316-acre John Freise farm in Schaumburg for manufacturing and administrative facilities.

1966: Motorola begins building 674,000-square-foot facility to house the company’s communications division, supplying two-way radio systems and equipment.

1971: Motorola Communications Division’s administrative headquarters open in a 310,000-square-foot addition in Schaumburg.

1973: Motorola breaks ground for its new corporate world headquarters building on the Schaumburg campus. The facility includes a 12-story office building and a two-story annex to house computer services and a cafeteria.

1976: The new international headquarters building opens. Also Motorola’s Automotive Products Division moves headquarters Schaumburg campus.

1982: Motorola completes 350,000-square-foot addition to Communications Division’s facility in Schaumburg.

1983: Motorola expands Schaumburg facility again to manufacture cellular radiotelephone systems and phones.

1986: Motorola Galvin Center for Continuing Education opens on Schaumburg campus with classrooms and an auditorium.

1991: Motorola opens Motorola Museum of Electronics and the Corporate Archives in an addition to the Galvin Center.

1992: Motorola completed a west wing addition to the Galvin Center that doubled the size of the facility.

2001-present: Motorola has laid off tens of thousands of workers and closed buildings on various campuses.

2011: Motorola Inc. split into two separate publicly traded companies. Motorola Solutions remained in Schaumburg. Motorola Mobility kept its headquarters in Libertyville for a while, but eventually was sold to Google, then Lenovo Group. It moved to Chicago and recently laid off 500, or 25 percent of its local workforce.

2013: Motorola Solutions sold part of its campus to Zurich North America, which is building its own North American headquarters there. Some property also was sold to the Illinois Tollway Authority.

2015: Privaty equity firm Silver Lake pumps in $1 billion and two managing directors join Motorola Solutions’ board of directors.

Motorola Solutions announces move of global headquarters to Chicago along with 800 workers. An additional 200 workers in manufacturing are expected to move to Elgin.

Source: News stories, Motorola Solutions

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