Boeing, Georgia Tech discuss possible research facility

Aerospace giant Boeing is scouting sites in Midtown Atlanta for a possible research facility, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned, a move that could add another blue chip name to a growing roster of corporate players making investments around Georgia Tech.

The Fortune 500 maker of airliners, military planes and other defense systems would join heavy hitters such as AT&T, Home Depot, NCR and Worldpay US in planting a corporate presence near one of the world’s top engineering schools. How many jobs and what types of research might be involved wasn’t immediately clear.

In a statement, Boeing said any potential collaboration would not involve moving work from other locations, nor would it involve a facility with hundreds of jobs. The company said any research agreement would be similar to collaborations it has with other universities.

Boeing has partnerships with more than 200 universities and higher learning institutions, including research facilities at the University of Washington.

“We are pleased with our relationship with Georgia Tech and are continuing to talk with them about ongoing and future research projects, but we do not have anything of substance to announce at this time,” a spokesman said.

A Georgia Tech spokeswoman did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The flurry of new research and development centers and corporate campuses in Midtown reflect the desire of companies to tap into Tech’s rich student and faculty talent. For Tech, the moves create a pipeline of jobs for graduates and possible private sector research dollars for the university at a time when federal research money is harder to find.

Two people with knowledge of the situation said Boeing and Georgia Tech officials have discussed a potential research center near campus. Two others said that Boeing was in the market for office space in Atlanta.

It is not immediately clear where Boeing might establish its presence. AT&T placed its research center, known as the Foundry, at Technology Square. NCR is planning a corporate headquarters for 3,600 workers at a site nearby.

Worldpay US selected an office tower at Atlantic Station for its headquarters, and the company also recently started a partnership with the Advanced Technology Development Center to fund an incubator program for financial technology companies.

Chicago-based Boeing is perhaps best known for its Seattle-area aircraft manufacturing facilities, but the company has been expanding in the Southeast. It builds the fuselage for its 787 Dreamliner passenger jet at a factory near Charleston, S.C., where it employs more than 2,400 people.

Boeing has ties with Georgia Tech, including partnerships with engineering students and professors, and the company has honored Tech for its collaboration. Boeing has also funded millions of dollars of research at the university.

Georgia boasts about 500 aerospace-related companies, most notably a Lockheed Martin plant in Marietta and business jet maker Gulfstream along the coast.

In late 2013, Gov. Nathan Deal pitched Boeing to build its next-generation 777X jetliner here, but Washington state got the plant.