Jha: Even if HQ moves, most Moto employees will stay in suburbs

  • Sanjay Jha, co-CEO of Motorola speaks at the Executive's Club of Chicago Technology Conference in Chicago on Wednesday.

    Sanjay Jha, co-CEO of Motorola speaks at the Executive's Club of Chicago Technology Conference in Chicago on Wednesday. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Published: 6/9/2010 3:03 PM | Updated: 6/9/2010 6:23 PM

If Motorola Inc. moves the headquarters of its new Mobile Devices and Home business, most of the work force is expected to remain in the Chicago suburbs, Motorola co-CEO Sanjay Jha said Wednesday.

While he hasn't decided yet about where the new business will be headquartered, Jha likes the so-called Boeing model, where about 150 to 200 workers are transferred to another city to create a new headquarters. The phone business is currently headquartered in Libertyville, employing several thousand people.

Jha said if a move happens, it could be in 2011 or 2012, and give workers enough time to decide if they want to move, too.

"We have a great pick of talent in Chicago and an incredible work ethic here with our employees," Jha told reporters. "But by the end of the year, we'll make a decision."

Motorola, which has made its home in Chicago and Schaumburg for more than 80 years, is on track to split into two publicly traded companies during the first quarter of 2011. Jha will head the consumer products area that include Mobile Devices and the Home businesses. Co-CEO Greg Brown will remain in Schaumburg and lead the Enterprise and Networks businesses.

The keynote speaker at the Executives Club of Chicago luncheon downtown at the Hyatt Regency, Jha addressed about 850 business leaders about the impact of convergence on all industries. He gave everyone the latest Bluetooth headset that takes speech commands to send text messages.

Speculation on the future of the new phone business has escalated in recent months. Reports have circulated that various cities in California, Texas and elsewhere could be likely locations, especially since Jha still maintains a home in San Diego.

At the same time, Jha said he foresees the new company becoming more "software-centric," forming alliances with other companies and encouraging developers to provide more innovative apps and other features for mobile devices.

He sees a strong convergence ahead where mobile devices and the availability of information anywhere, anytime, will have a major impact on all industries, especially health care.

Jha said he wants to see Motorola more involved with products related to fitness, wellness and preventive care.

Education also is another strong area, he said, considering many students already submit their homework online. Jha believes smartphones will one day replace other devices and be used for more functions.

Jha also covered a number of other topics as well:

• Motorola is aiming to introduce a new device that offers 2 gigahertz of processing. Jha declined to provide more details, but said "it is quite amazing."

• The company doesn't see the latest version of the iPhone released this week as any more of a threat than all other devices sold worldwide. Stiff competition always adds pressure, and with or without the iPhone, Motorola is on target to release 11 more phones, to total 20 new phones this year.

• Droid has been selling very well. "If we could build more, I could sell more," Jha said. There is no problem with Motorola's manufacturing plants, only the supply chain that provides the components, Jha said. The economy has affected companies that make the parts that go into Droid, "but we're better positioned than most because of our scale," Jha said.

• Jha expressed his concern about the fast-paced changes in technology and their impact on what is public information and what should remain private. He was especially concerned about how more 911 calls are being made public, calling it a "reasonably poor development."