Flying high: Boeing Canada mulls expansion of downtown Ottawa office

Duff Sullivan Boeing Canada
Charles "Duff" Sullivan is managing director of Boeing Canada. Photo courtesy Boeing Canada

While many local businesses are downsizing their offices as employees spend more time working from home, a leading aerospace company says it expects to expand its downtown footprint amid rising demand for its aircraft and other products.

Boeing Canada currently employs 33 people at its office in the World Exchange Plaza. The 8,000-square-foot space serves as headquarters for the global aircraft manufacturing giant’s growing Canadian defence operations.

Boeing’s 12th-floor office and the commercial plaza as a whole are undergoing extensive renovations as landlords and tenants reassess the future of the office in a post-pandemic world. 

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But Boeing Canada’s Ottawa-based managing director Charles “Duff” Sullivan says fresh paint and new furniture can’t mask the reality that the company needs more room to grow and might seek more space in the building. 

“We’re bursting at the seams right now,” Sullivan told OBJ this week. “We’re looking … for additional office space, hopefully close to where we are right now.”

Boeing Canada, which employs nearly 2,000 people at 15 offices in seven provinces, had to furlough a significant chunk of its workforce early in the COVID-19 crisis but is now nearly back to pre-pandemic levels as the aviation industry recovers.

Sullivan, who spent more than 30 years in the Royal Canadian Air Force and assumed his current role in 2020, said Boeing’s Ottawa presence has grown significantly since the local office was established nearly 25 years ago.

While the corporation is best-known for manufacturing commercial aircraft such as the 747 and 767, it is also the world’s third-largest defence contractor.

Boeing produces equipment such as helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles and anti-ship missiles for military forces around the world. In addition, it makes satellites and advanced communications systems for customers that include the Canadian federal government.

Among the major clients of Boeing Canada’s defence, space and security division are the Department of National Defence, Public Services and Procurement Canada and the Canadian Space Agency.

Sullivan said the World Exchange Plaza’s close proximity to Parliament Hill is a major plus for Boeing. 

“When (government officials) want to come and spend time with us, it’s kind of nice that we’re nearby,” he said. 

Besides its current contracts with DND and other federal departments, Boeing Canada also has several potential military projects in the pipeline, Sullivan added, including plans to build new training, maritime control and surveillance aircraft.

If those programs come to fruition, the firm’s local headcount could double within the next three to five years, he predicted.

Meanwhile, Boeing forecasted earlier this year that surging demand for air travel will require more than 42,000 new commercial jets to be added to global fleets over the next two decades.

Sullivan said Boeing could end up manufacturing up to half of those aircraft, with Canadian suppliers responsible for key components such as landing gear. That bodes well for the Canadian subsidiary’s growth prospects, he added.

“Boeing has a very bright future,” Sullivan said.

The aerospace company’s potential expansion push comes as the World Exchange Plaza – which is owned by the British Columbia Investment Management Corp. and managed by its real estate investment arm, the QuadReal Property Group – saw its occupancy increase in the third quarter.

Real estate brokerage firm CBRE said nearly 28,000 square feet of space in the office and retail complex was either leased or taken off the sublease market in the three-month period from July to September. 

According to QuadReal’s website, more than 86,000 square feet of office space in the World Exchange Plaza’s two towers at 45 O’Connor St. and 100 Queen St. remains available for lease. The buildings’ total footprint is about 620,000 square feet.

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