I have news that pleases many, disappoints some, and should come as no surprise to anyone (because the news has really been out for several weeks), I am returning to Illinois after sixteen years in Michigan. Beginning February 28, my career in automotive climate control testing for DENSO (Southfield, Michigan), is advancing to an engineering management position with Navistar, based in Warrenville, IL. I have given official notice to DENSO, so now I can notify all five of my loyal Burnhamish.com readers. Hooray!
Not so fast. Navistar, although based in Illinois, has a facility in Fort Wayne, Indiana, into which I have actually been hired. The Fort Wayne operation will be moved to a new location being renovated in Lisle, Illinois, but will not be completed before the summer. I have to work in Fort Wayne for a few months until the transition is complete. So, I suppose the title of this piece should be “Come On Feel the Indiana!” but that just sounds silly.
I originally moved to Michigan for the job. It was not so much a promotion as it was an opportunity for advancement. Still, it was Detroit (bang-bang!). I was assured by those familiar with the area that if you don’t have to be in Detroit, it’s not so bad. I’ll leave discussion of the merits of the city of Detroit for another post. Or, you can just go here. After a year I got married, my new wife joined me Michigan, and we started our new life together.
Always in the back of my mind, however, was the desire to return to Chicagoland. Most of my close friends were still there, and we still had family in the area. One of my sisters lived in Ann Arbor for the first several years I lived in Michigan, but has since relocated to Oregon, of all places. What the heck is there in Oregon? I mean, besides actual mountains and bike-friendly cities? Please.
I have connections -sort of- with Navistar: my father worked over 30 years for International Harvester, from which the commercial truck operation was spun off in the mid-’80s, becoming Navistar. The construction and agricultural equipment operations were merged with J.I Case, where I began my professional engineering career in 1989. One of my father’s stepfathers, an executive with IH, was responsible for making the justification (on paper) for production of the Scout, which I drove into the ground during high school. The Scout was manufactured in Fort Wayne. So, we’ve come full-circle, in a tangled-up bundle of Christmas lights kind of way. Or, like one of those Family Circus cartoons. You know the ones.
I thought I would work for DENSO for at most ten years. I had even considered changing professions entirely; with my considerable artistic and writing skills, not to mention my good looks, warm personality, sharp wit, and proficiency with computers, I could have made a good web developer. OK, maybe I only need the computer proficiency. Only, I don’t know if I could have made a good living at web developing. I pressed on with engineering, switching gears from designing to testing climate control systems at DENSO. When I considered moving back to Chicago six years ago (at the ten-years-at-DENSO mark), I found not a lot of demand for automotive engineers in the Chicago job market, and compelling reasons to stay where I was. Not facing a layoff during the past few years was certainly a compelling reason to stay where I was.
Then the planets aligned, the economy began its slow rebound, and The State of Illinois and City of Naperville gave Navistar financial incentives to keep its HQ in Illinois and move research and development from Fort Wayne. The rest is boring interview stuff: the offer, the counteroffer, the negotiations, the WAITING, blah, blah, blah. I will commute to Fort Wayne and stay there during the week to start with; where I return to for weekends depends on how quickly we sell our house and buy one in Illinois.
Ultimately, this is a good career move for me, and the circumstances are right. We will miss our friends in Michigan, but look forward to seeing old friends again.