Icelandair’s North American corporate headquarters largely flew under the radar to land in an office park in Quincy this month.
Despite a well-publicized recruiting effort nearly six years ago, Boston officials lost a high-profile competition to attract the headquarters for the new U.S. airline backed by Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson.
That’s quite a contrast to the approach that Icelandair took with its arrival to the area: Its North American corporate office largely flew under the radar to land in an office park in Quincy this month.
With Icelandair deciding to end its flights to Baltimore/Washington International Airport about 18 months ago, it made sense to relocate the U.S. office from Columbia, Md., to a place where the Reykjavik-based airline is still flying.
Massachusetts was a logical choice, as Logan Airport has been a major airport for Icelandair for at least the past 13 years. The airline also flies to New York, Florida, Toronto and, starting this summer, Seattle – and has seasonal flights to Minneapolis and Nova Scotia.
Michael Raucheisen, a marketing executive with Icelandair, says Quincy’s Crown Colony park in particular was attractive because of its proximity to Boston and to Logan – where an Icelandair jet takes off over the Atlantic at 9:30 each night.
The new Icelandair office, where about 30 employees are based, might seem a bit modest for a North American headquarters.
But the economic benefits extend well beyond those extra jobs that Icelandair brings. Although Cape Air is based in Hyannis, this will be the first time – at least in recent memory – that a major airline operates a corporate office in the Boston area.
Bob Weiss, publisher of Travel New England, sees Icelandair’s arrival as a huge coup for Logan, boosting its prestige among international airlines. He says airline industry insiders now will travel to Boston for their meetings with Icelandair’s local managers. He says Icelandair’s presence should also help strengthen ties between local businesspeople and tour operators and their counterparts in Iceland.
Weiss says Boston can act as an important launching point for overseas airlines because of its proximity to Europe relative to other major airports in the U.S.
Officials in Quincy are also celebrating. Dean Rizzo, executive director of the Quincy 2000 Collaborative economic development agency, says he first learned that Icelandair was coming earlier this month when he was invited to a meeting to talk about the airline’s imminent arrival and what the state could do to help with the transition.
Rizzo says it’s nice that Icelandair discovered the qualities that Quincy 2000 promotes – such as Quincy’s ease of access to public transit and the highway to Boston and Logan – without his agency needing to convey them to the airline.
Rizzo knows this isn’t about a big boost in the local work force – Icelandair isn’t employing thousands of people in the city like State Street Corp. But he says Icelandair is an internationally-recognized brand name, and one that will carry a lot of weight when Quincy officials try to sell the city as a desirable place to relocate or expand a corporate office.
Rizzo doesn’t know of any active recruitment effort in Quincy that was used to bring Icelandair here. By the time Rizzo found out about the airline’s interest in Quincy, the decision to touch down in the City of Presidents had already been made.
However, a spokeswoman for the Patrick administration says state trade and port authority officials started meeting with Icelandair about six months ago to discuss the relocation.
You can’t fault Boston Mayor Tom Menino for lobbying heavily to bring what eventually became known as Virgin America here – even though the airline eventually decided to set up shop in Burlingame, Calif., just outside the San Francisco International Airport. A smart mayor or governor should never ignore the importance of corporate recruiting, especially with the stiff competition that exists among many of the major cities across the country.
But sometimes the specific qualities of a city or region are enough to sell the place – and that can be the most effective kind of sales pitch of all.
Jon Chesto is the business editor of The Patriot Ledger. He may be reached at email@example.com or at www.massmarketblog.com.