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Northrop set to move main office and 300 corporate jobs to Virginia

Northrop Grumman Corp., the last big-name aerospace company headquartered in Southern California, is headed out of town this week.

The nation's second-largest military contractor, founded in 1939 by visionary aircraft designer Jack Northrop, is moving its main office to Falls Church, Va., on Monday. It is a milestone for the corporation that along the way absorbed big names like TRW Inc., Litton Industries Inc., Westinghouse Electronic Systems and Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical.

Today, the company is an industry giant with about $35 billion in annual sales, building such things as sophisticated satellites, high-flying spy drones and the ghostly B-2 stealth bomber. While 300 members of its corporate staff will depart, it still will have about 30,000 jobs in Southern California.

The company joins an exodus of military companies -- including Lockheed Martin Corp., Science Applications International Corp. and Computer Sciences Corp. -- that have abandoned Southern California since the mid-1990s in favor of headquarters nearer to decision makers in Washington.

"This is an important move for the company, and it's one that we believe will improve the effectiveness in serving the nation and our customers," Northrop Chief Executive Wesley G. Bush said in January 2010 in announcing the decision. "The proximity to Washington enables us to be a more integrated part of the federal process."

Although the company is shifting about 300 employees from its corporate offices in Century City, Calif., to Falls Church, a quarter of Northrop's worldwide workforce will remain in California.

"It's the end of an era in a lot of ways," said Gerald Blackburn, president of the Aerospace Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit organization of former aerospace employees who work to preserve Southern California's aerospace history. "The golden era of aviation and aerospace pioneering has given way to the current generation of leadership that's more concerned about the bottom line. Douglas, McDonnell, all of the companies that were based here are gone."