About the only thing left is the formal announcement, or a shocking about-face.
A video released to Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NS) employees last Thursday–one that is not publicly released by the company on its web page–was obtained by the Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk’s daily newspaper. And that video makes clear that barring a major shift, Norfolk Southern is moving its headquarters to Atlanta.
In the video, company CEO Jim Squires said NS is “considering the consolidation of our Norfolk headquarters into Atlanta, but only if many aspects can be resolved to make sense for Norfolk Southern, its shareholders, and its employees,” according to the newspaper’s story.
Previously, the only NS statements were that the company was looking at “the possibility of consolidating headquarters into a single location.”
“We will be better as a team if we are together in one place,” Squires said in the video, according to the paper. “I’ve believed that for a long time.”
There would be construction of a new headquarters building, according to Squires, as opposed to leasing existing office space in Atlanta. That would mean that most employees choosing to relocate would not need to go until 2021, but that there could be some employees who make the shift to Atlanta next year, according to the report of Squires’ video.
“I do want to acknowledge the uncertainty that this has created in people’s lives and I want to apologize to employees for leaving everyone up in the air this long,” he said, according to the Virginian Pilot. “It’s a complicated transaction; it involves many, many people – developers, city council members, mayor, the governor, economic development officials and so on. So that’s why it’s taking a long time.”
While earlier reports indicated NS might end up in a new development called The Gulch, the newspaper reported that the overall Gulch project has “bogged down” for a variety of reasons.
It also quoted Kyle Kessler, an architect with the Atlanta-based Center for Civic Innovation, as saying that an area known as Technology Square is now a leading possibility for a new NS headquarters. It is a 3-acre parcel in midtown Atlanta, and the newspaper reported that Cousins Properties has the site under contract. The Virginian-Pilot said it was the Atlanta Business Journal that first reported that.
A member of the NS board, Thomas Bell, is a former chairman and CEO of Cousins.
The newspaper story quoted several Norfolk and Virginia officials on their attempts to persuade NS to stay. Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander told the paper that “there is a deal in Atlanta, in Georgia, that needed to play out” before a final decision.
In an earlier FreightWaves story on the potential move, relocation specialist John Boyd said a move of Norfolk Southern to Atlanta would be following a pattern, where companies abandon mid-sized cities where they have historic ties to get near bigger cities that have a growing pool of millennial employees and to also be near hub airports that can take their staff to most major locations in the country–and the world–on a nonstop flight.