More on Headquarters Relocation

Automotive Engineering
Jan. 1974

The SAE membership recently approved overwhelmingly an amendment of paragraph C 4 of the Society’s Constitution...to eliminate the requirement that SAE headquarters be located in New York City. An interesting aspect of this letter ballot is the considerable response from the members in terms of the written comments. These comments deserve answers.

Of the total 6,249 members who cast ballots, 64 wrote in comments. The comments can be groups as follows:

Comment Number
SAE headquarters should be moved to Detroit 26
SAE headquarters should be moved to a city in the Midwest 18
Move okay, but why Pittsburgh? 9
SAE headquarters should stay in New York which is the center of activity 5
Move from New York should have been done long ago 3
Society isn’t going to get away from high costs by moving 1
Too little information provided to voting members 1
Why was membership not asked to make a decision on the move? 1

With respect to the question of Detroit as the site of the headquarters, it should be pointed out that the Directors’ decision to move to Warrendale, Pennsylvania was essentially an economic one. In fact, economics (the high cost of doing business in New York City) brought about the decision to move in the first place. The Pittsburgh area emerged as the best of the 21 cities investigated in this respect.

Detroit and environs did not show up as well as Warrendale for a host of economic reasons...no tax advantages in Michigan to tax exempt organizations as is available in Pennsylvania; no financial aid or assistance in Michigan; high cost of land, construction and white collar employees in the Detroit area as compared with the Pittsburgh area. Detroit would add at least $150,000 to SAE’s annual operating expense over Warrendale...and, therefore, not much improvement over the New York area which SAE is leaving.

Some members argued that SAE headquarters should be located where most SAE members are. The Directors gave respect and consideration to this proposal. It’s obvious that the real creative thinking in the Society and the direction of SAE is furnished by members, not staff employees. The staff merely implements policies and plans of member leaders and workers. The Society leadership can and does make its contribution no matter where headquarters is located. The nearly 69 years of the New York City location demonstrate this.

Several members wondered why the relocation question wasn’t submitted to the membership at large. The Directors felt that to do so would reduce the selection process to a popularity contest. The Finance Committee, the Ad Hoc Relocation Committee and the Board of Directors were unanimous in the view that the selection of a headquarters site should be a dispassionate business decision.

The present economic crunch, resulting from the energy squeeze, accentuates the wisdom of the Directors’ emphasis of the economic criteria. Keeping down costs of the Society operations is likely to be a major continuing SAE goal in the period ahead. To assure continuity of Society services, a location conducive to lower operating expense becomes highly important to SAE’s immediate and long-range future well being.

Joseph Gilbert
SAE Secretary & General Manager