The Muscular Dystrophy Association’s (MDA) new Chicago headquarters is open for business. The organization’s former headquarters in Tucson, Ariz., has been renamed the Operations Center. The Chicago headquarters will house most of MDA’s top executives, including President and CEO Steven Derks, the chief development officer, chief marketing and communications officer and chief financial officer.
“We moved the national office because we wanted to be in a part of the country that was central,” said Roxann Olivas, vice president of public relations and community programs. “We wanted to be in a location where we had access to large corporations and businesses.” Chicago is a central hub, she said.
“On the research side,” she continued, “we do a lot of work with biotech companies based in Washington, D.C., New York and Boston. I can’t emphasize enough that we want to make sure we have a presence in some of the larger communities. Chicago serves as the central base but the plan is to get closer to constituents and expand our network and business that way.”
The majority of MDA’s national staff, between 80 and 90 employees, will remain in Tucson, said Olivas. By the end of the year, the Chicago headquarters will have from 30 to 40 employees, mostly upper management. The Operations Center will continue to house back-end departments such as accounting and human resources, as well as field operations, which support the 130 local MDA offices around the country.
Derks has been based out of Chicago since he joined the organization in 2012, said Olivas. “He was in Tucson often but anybody who was already in Chicago stayed there and waited things out. There’s been a lot of back and forth,” she said. Three other executives already worked from Chicago, and staffers from the Chicago district office will make headquarters their new home.
“It’s an adjustment,” said Olivas. “It’s been years where we were all based in Tucson, and it creates a different atmosphere. But people travel all the time now, and we’re all used to the new technology of conference calls and video conferencing.”
This isn’t the first large move MDA has undertaken. The 64-year-old organization moved its headquarters from New York City to Tucson in 1991. Olivas said that the first move was mostly a monetary consideration. “The state of Arizona and Tucson helped by donating some land giving us an opportunity to come here,” she said. “At the time they were in New York and leasing and it was getting expensive.”
The Chicago headquarters is also leased, in a space within the iconic Union Station, the third-busiest train terminal in the U.S, straddling the downtown neighborhoods of Greektown and the Loop. Olivas said she was not privy to the financial details of the move and could offer no comment.