Business

Rockwell CEO: Collins Aerospace HQ decision won't have 'significant impact' on jobs

The company had what is likely its last annual shareholder meeting Thursday

Building 124 on the Rockwell Collins headquarters campus is seen in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Building 124 on the Rockwell Collins headquarters campus is seen in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — No matter where Rockwell Collins’s corporate successor finds its home base, any move will have little effect on employment, Rockwell’s chief executive said Thursday.

“Where the location of my office is going to be, it feels like it’s almost being overplayed. I think it’s going to be a small group and wherever that is, it’s not going to have a significant impact on employment levels,” Rockwell Chairman, CEO and President Kelly Ortberg said in an interview with The Gazette.

The interview came after Rockwell’s annual shareholder meeting in Cedar Rapids, likely the last of its kind for the company as United Technologies Corp.’s pending acquisition of Rockwell will see an end to its independence after about 17 years.

“All change comes with bittersweet moments. It’s the end of an era and the starting of a new era,” Ortberg said.

Assuming the deal is completed, Ortberg would lead a new division of UTC called Collins Aerospace Systems. The companies have not announced where they will put the division headquarters for Collins Aerospace. UTC is based in Farmington, Conn., and UTC Aerospace Systems — the division Rockwell will combine with to form Collins Aerospace — is based in Charlotte, N.C.

While headquarters offices may employ a small number of people, site selectors have said they drive community involvement by executives, corporate activity and are a source of talent recruitment. They are also a bragging opportunity for cities.

Ortberg said he did not know the exact number of people who would work in the executive offices of Collins Aerospace.

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“Once we’re ready to announce that and we’ve got it all figured out, I think people will go, ‘OK, this is going to be OK,’” Ortberg said.

The bigger effect, Ortberg said, likely would come from jobs that would be cut as UTC and Rockwell combine corporate offices. In addition to no longer being independent, Rockwell would not be publicly traded on its own, meaning jobs attached to those functions no longer would be needed.

Ortberg also said the Collins Aerospace headquarters decision “is not going to be based on economic incentives at all.” If city or state financial incentives come into play, they would be for moving jobs from one location to another.

“The city’s been very aggressive in reaching out to me — by the way, not just the city but the state, as well — that they are ready to do what they need to do to try to keep the employment levels here,” Ortberg said.

Rockwell shareholders have approved the acquisition, but it still requires regulatory permission. UTC and Rockwell have said they expect the deal could close by midyear.

l Comments: (319) 398-8366; matthew.patane@thegazette.com

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