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Canon makes big move to new Melville headquarters

The new Canon U.S.A. headquarters building on Walt

The new Canon U.S.A. headquarters building on Walt Whitman Road at the intersection of the Long Island Expressway South Service Road in Melville. Credit: Steve Pfost, 2013

Canon's quarter-century pursuit of a new headquarters ends Tuesday when 700 employees move into a $500-million glass structure on land in Melville where pumpkins once grew.

One Canon Park will serve as the company's regional headquarters for North and South America. The photography and copier giant has similar offices in Tokyo and London.

Over the years, plans by Canon to move from Lake Success to Westbury or Brookville fell by the wayside. Connecticut and New Jersey came calling, but company executives selected Melville, in part because its rank and file didn't want to leave the area.

"We wanted to stay on Long Island because most of our employees live here, and we didn't want to jeopardize our company by losing a substantial part of the workforce," said Seymour Liebman, Canon's point man for more than 25 years on the project to consolidate offices.

Canon received about $100 million in government aid, including tax breaks from New York State and Suffolk County, and an extra lane on each of the Long Island Expressway service roads. The 668,296-square-foot building is near Exit 49 of the LIE.

The move-in is taking place in stages.

About 100 employees in the facilities and information technology departments have been working in Melville for about a month. They'll be joined Tuesday by 700 members of the administrative and sales staffs. The final 600 to 700 workers will arrive early next month.

By April 30, Canon expects to have vacated four offices in Lake Success and one in Manhasset -- all of them rented.

"We've been planning this [move] for at least a year," said Liebman, chief administrative officer and general counsel at Canon U.S.A. and first non-Japanese member of the parent company's board of directors.

Employees received frequent updates about the building's construction, which began nearly three years ago. They took tours and saw their respective work stations in late January and this month.

A number of finishing touches remain to be done on the building and grounds. Construction continues on a product showroom and fitness center. Cherry trees will be planted in the spring and fish put into two ponds.

Still, Liebman couldn't contain his excitement in an interview last week: "It's basically a new start for our company; it's a new era."

The same could be said about the project's potential impact on the Island's economy, according to some economic developers and elected officials who worked on the Canon deal.

"This is a boost to the economy, a boost to the psyche of our region," said Steve Levy, a former Suffolk County executive. "Outsiders will look at us as friendly to business."

In December 2006, Levy helped mediate a land dispute that threatened to scuttle Canon's purchase of the 52 acres for its headquarters. The parcel was the final one on Long Island that the company would consider; otherwise, it was off to another state, Liebman said.

Two real estate developers were fighting over who had the right to sell the former pumpkin farm to Canon. "The deal was unraveling . . . I just felt we couldn't lose those jobs," Levy recalled.

Canon expects to add 750 people to its workforce of about 1,500 over the next five to 10 years. It also may add 200,000 square feet to the building.

Liebman said, "We're glad to finally have something we can call home."


1971: Canon USA arrives on Long Island.

1988: Building moratorium thwarts plan to move to Roosevelt Raceway in Westbury.

1992: Brookville Village rejects proposed headquarters on land owned by the New York Institute of Technology.

2007: Company buys 52-acre former pumpkin farm on Walt Whitman Road near Exit 49 of the LIE.

2009: U.S. division executives seek authorization for Melville headquarters from Canon’s board of directors in Tokyo.

2010: Huntington Town approves $500-million project in March; construction begins in May.

TUESDAY: First large group of employees moves into new headquarters.

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