The Lego project snapped into place quite suddenly.
No, not the mini Millennium Falcon set your kid is playing with, or even the near-life-sized giraffe made out of blocks in Assembly Square — rather, the whirlwind of activity that led to the toy giant announcing that it will be moving its western hemisphere headquarters to Boston.
“Boston is the place to be and shows no signs of slowing down,” an upbeat Boston Economic Development Chief Segun Idowu told the Herald on Tuesday following the first announcement of the Wu administration of the city successfully luring a company to move a headquarters here by 2026. “We see this is the first of many to come.”
That said, Iduwo described a process that actually didn’t require too much coaxing at all in order to persuade the Danish company to move its Americas HQ from its 47-year home of Enfield, Connecticut, to Boston over the next few years — rather than to the other options of New York City or another Nutmeg State locale.
Here’s how the move, which Idowu said he expects to bring hundreds of new jobs, came together.
The process started with a missive from the business-focused nonprofit MassEcon: a big company’s thinking about coming to Boston. You interested?
They were. City Director of Business Development Alia Forrest and a team began meetings with MassEcon — even though the name of the company itself remained in the shadows.
“We didn’t know it was Lego until the last, like, 72 hours,” Idowu said.
He said they met with Lego for the first time Monday, and really didn’t need to give a hard sell.
“We thought we were going into a pitch meeting, and their first opening lines were essentially ‘Boston has all the things that we’re looking for, and we’re going to tell our team tomorrow that we’re coming to Boston,’” Idowu recounted on Tuesday.
The city didn’t offer any incentives. In fact, the company wasn’t looking for them, Idowu said.
What they were saying, he said, was “music to our ears.”
“They were looking to find ways to be closer to their workforce and their talent — to find a place that had accessible transportation and to find a location that was mission-aligned,” he said.
Aside from obvious outliers like Amazon, which turned its “HQ2” search into a press bonanza, pitting cities against each other, the more cloak-and-dagger routine like this is par for the course. Companies typically want to avoid press until they’ve got a destination nailed down.
MassEcon, a nonprofit that works with homegrown companies and touts the Bay State as a place for others to come, often serves in what Executive Director Peter Abair describes as a “front door” role, looking to give companies the privacy to explore the option without leaving the type of government-communications paper trail that frequently makes it into the press.
“We’re so self-critical, we sometimes don’t convey how special we are,” Abair told the Herald. “So self-critical. Like, ‘the New England Patriots won six Super Bowls. They should have won nine.’ It’s very unique.”
He — and Idowu said similarly — noted that despite the many real complaints about the MBTA, it’s one of the largest such systems in the country. We also have the various colleges, hospitals and a major international airport.
He also gave “all the credit in the world” to Mayor Michelle Wu’s team in Boston and Gov. Maura Healey’s brand-new state administration, who both jumped on this quickly.
“That’s what you need for success,” Abair said.
There’s still a lot to be worked out. Lego hasn’t chosen an actual site for the headquarters yet, though Idowu said he wants it to at least be near downtown, which the Wu administration is trying to revitalize following the pandemic and ensuing shift to hybrid work.
And it’s not like either side has signed anything, either; the company hasn’t affirmed any guarantees, and the city hasn’t given anything to them.
“Boston is ranked one of the best cities in the world to attract and retain talent,” Skip Kodak, the head of Lego Group of the Americas, said in a statement. “This, along with its world-class academic institutions, skilled workforce and great quality of life makes it an ideal location for our US head office.”
Lego declined to make anyone available for an interview on Tuesday following the announcement, but a spokesman, when asked further about the choice of Boston, said “A move to Boston made sense.
“Our priority is to move to a location which offers a large talent pool able to support our business in the future. We already had connections with Boston given our LEGO Education office is located there,” the company said, using its characteristic all-caps styling and referring to the spot in the Back Bay where somewhere in the ballpark of 100 people already work.
The move will begin to roll out in 2025 and wrap up in early 2026, according to the company.
“I look forward to supporting LEGO Group as they transition their headquarters to Boston and join our mission to become the most family-friendly city in the country,” Wu said in a statement. “This news finally has my kids impressed.”