FIFTY years ago American companies started to move their headquarters away from city centres to the suburbs. Some critics blamed the exodus on “white flight”, as businesses followed their employees out of increasingly crime-ridden cities. The firms themselves ascribed it to corporate responsibility. They provided offices in safe neighbourhoods and near good schools—one academic, Louise Mozingo, of the University of California, Berkeley, calls it “pastoral capitalism”. Whatever the reason, it created a new type of HQ: not an office tower in the pumping heart of a metropolis but a leafy campus in the middle of nowhere.

Now a growing number of companies are moving back again. The most prominent example is General Electric, which abandoned New York City for a 68-acre campus in Fairfield, Connecticut, in 1974, but is now swapping its bucolic site for a collection of warehouses on the Boston waterfront. There are legions more. Chicago’s downtown has attracted an impressive collection of HQs, from both the surrounding suburbs and from farther afield, including McDonald’s, Kraft Heinz, Motorola Solutions, Boeing, and Archer Daniels Midland, a...Continue reading