The shifting meaning of firm location: From a physical setting to a perceptual sense of place
Time: Friday, September 27, 13.00 – 14.30
Venue: Porthania P219 Lehtisali (2nd floor)
A firm’s choice to (re)locate its headquarters depends on the interplay between physical and perceptual aspects, and that the latter constitute a key consideration in such strategic decisions.
In today’s global knowledge economy, many activities that have previously required a physical presence have now become digitalized and are carried out over a distance. Both large and small firms are more capable of changing the locations of their activities than ever before, leading to increased fragmentation, dynamism, and virtualization of their spatial arrangements (Mudambi, Narula and Santangelo, 2018). In our research project we focus on the location of headquarters and argue that a firm’s choice to (re)locate its headquarters depends on the interplay between physical and perceptual aspects, and that the latter constitute a key consideration in such strategic decisions. In addition to the decreasing importance of physical locational factors in the global knowledge economy, it is worth noting that locations have strong symbolic and signaling value. Emotional connections, feelings of belonging, or perceived rights and responsibilities are projected on the multiple spaces that businesses occupy. Moreover, locations are not passive, fixed entities, but international firms shape the characteristics of their locations such as the cities in which they reside. Thus, we find that such perceptual and social aspects of locations should be considered jointly with physical aspects to develop a more elaborate understanding of the topic. Our project aims to contribute to the field of international business, economic geography, and strategic management by providing an integrative theoretical framework on the shifting meaning of firm location and its implications for policy-makers.
Rebecca Piekkari is the principal investigator in this project and Professor of International Business at Aalto University School of Business. She has written extensively on the organization of multinational corporations and its evolution over time. She is most well-known for her contributions to language-sensitive research in international business and for advancing qualitative methods, particularly the case study, in international business.
Perttu Kähäri is a Professor of Practice in International Business at Aalto University School of Business. He has a long practical experience of working in multinationals in various executive roles at corporate and regional headquarters as well as in local units. His research interests are related to management of multinationals, headquarters’ location and relocation, start-up internationalization and global logistics.
Iiris Saittakari is a postdoctoral researcher in International Business at Aalto University School of Business. She defended her doctoral dissertation titled “The location of headquarters: Why, when and where are regional mandates located?” in May 2018. Her research interests are related to headquarters’ location and relocation, knowledge flows, foreign multinationals in small open economies and global value chains.
Tiina Ritvala is Assistant Professor of International Business at Aalto University School of Business. Her research focuses on cross-sector partnerships and conflict between multinational enterprises, non-profits and governments, as well as, sustainability issues in international business. She studies these topics from multiple perspectives, including institutional theory, international entrepreneurship and organizational stigma.