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Boeing Co. ended months of speculation Thursday by picking Chicago as its new corporate home.

Following wide-spread speculation, the aerospace giant confirmed it has picked the Windy City as the site of its new headquarters in what the chairman and chief executive Phil Condit called a tough call.

"It was a very difficult decision and no single factor made the difference," Mr. Condit said in a statement.

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"In the end, we looked at all the data and made what we believe is the right choice for Boeing."

The move is expected to take place by Sept. 4. Boeing's new headquarter will be located at 100 North Riverside Plaza in Chicago.

The announcement had been widely expected, following a report in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in its overnight edition that the aerospace giant - which stunned the industry in March with plans to leave Seattle - had picked the windy city as the new site for its corporate headquarters.

When Boeing announced in March that it would leave Seattle, it said its new headquarters would be located in one of three cities: Chicago, Denver or Dallas. According to the report, Boeing Chairman Phil Condit had planned to fly to Chicago Thursday morning with a number of company officials.

The move took on the air of a covert mission, with Boeing executives filing their flight plan only after they took off, so that their destination wouldn't be known in advance.

From the air, they planned to contact officials from the two losing cities to thank them and inform them of their choice. An e-mail was then to go out to company staff while the jet is in the air and Mr. Condit would telephone Illinois Governor George Ryan from the plane.

Boeing rocked both the aviation industry and Seattle in March by announcing that it was leaving the city where it has been based for 60 years as part of a broad restructuring.

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With competition and other pressures squeezing growth in its two core business lines, commercial and defence aircraft, Boeing said it would expand into several new, faster-growing service businesses - including Internet services for air travellers, aircraft servicing and space communications.

The company will keep its factories and its design and development facilities in the Seattle area.

The company has said that the move is intended to save money and establish a headquarters more centrally located to its far-flung operations. Hundreds of flights daily at O'Hare International Airport will allow Boeing to keep the corporate office in touch its operations in 26 states.

Mr. Ryan also offered $6-million (U.S.) to $7.5-million in tax incentives. Boeing, which is expected to earn about $4.5-billion this year, could also receive 15 years of state income tax credits, estimated at $40-million to $45-million.

In announcing its decision, Boeing said all three potential sites were subject to extensive evaluations before the winner was picked.

"Any of these cities would have worked - including Seattle if it weren't collocted with our commercial airplanes headquarters," Boeing senior vice president John Warner, who led the selection process, said.

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"We would recommend highly that other firms on a similar quest put these four cities on their short list."

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