Cargill and city of Wichita officials rolled out plans Thursday morning for a $60 million protein headquarters at 825 E. Douglas, the company’s commitment to Kansas as it seeks to double its protein business over the next decade.
“We’re all in,” Cargill Protein Group corporate vice president Brian Sikes told the Wichita Business Journal in an exclusive interview this week.
Tom Windish, who heads Cargill’s retail customer channel and coordinated employee planning for the move, said the company work force stands behind the decision. Employee committees have been working about a year on the move.
‘We want people, if they choose, to be able to live, work and play in the same place,” he says. “Our employees say they want to be a part of that.”
It’s a spectacular building that will advance Wichita’s downtown growth, Mayor Jeff Longwell says.
“I love it,” he says. “It’s a building that says Wichita is an excellent place to compete in a global economy.”
It will serve as a fulcrum for further development downtown, said Jeff Fluhr, president of the city’s economic development arm, the Greater Wichita Partnership, while offering the street-level transparency and rooftop amenities necessary to connect the location with Old Town and the Intrust Bank Arena neighborhood.
“It’s not a lot different that what we wanted to do with Block One (the downtown Douglas block anchored by the Kansas Health Foundation and Kansas Leadership Center),” Fluhr says.
The building, built to emphasize employee collaboration, has room for up to 950 workers, 20 percent more than Cargill will initially move when the building opens in 2018. And the site includes expansion space for future acquisitions that Sikes says he’s confident are coming.
“It’s about growth,” he says.
The company made its Wichita decision on its talent — 800 workers, about 600 they estimated they would have lost in a move, a massive expense to retrain workers in a new home. That helped trump the financial incentives offered Cargill Protein by cities like Plano, Texas, and Denver, Colo.
Another, Sikes said, was the coordinated effort by the Greater Wichita Partnership, Wichita City Council and Kansas commerce officials to keep Cargill in Wichita.
“We are deeply embedded in this community,” Sikes said. “I am amazed when I walk our buildings how many people are involved in boards. There was a piece of that that would have been very difficult to undo. … Ripping that out was a big part of it.”
The Wichita pros: quality of life, governmental support and minimal business disruption.
The cons: Talent acquisition and retention, affordable airline access, aging and inadequate office space not reflecting company goals.
But Sikes, a four-time Wichita resident, is clear. Cargill can recruit to Wichita, with the assistance of city and economic development officials. Why? Because Wichita is a special community.
“I’ve never seen anything like boards and events in this town,” he said, chuckling. “I bought a ticket to Zoobilee, and I had to wait to get in. I paid for a ticket and I had to beg my way in. This community is special.”
By Bill Wilson
Source: Wichita Business Journal
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