Kansas got good news on Tuesday when Cargill announced that it will keep its protein business headquarters in Wichita, but will be building a new building at a still-to-be-determined site within the city limits.
About 900 employees work in Wichita, most of them in a 10-story building at 151 N. Main. The company leases some office space in another downtown building. Cargill opened its 75,000-square-foot Innovation Center, dedicated to research, development and marketing of its meat products in July of 2011.
Late in 2015, Cargill began an analysis of numerous options including several cities in states other than Kansas, said Cargill corporate vice president for the protein group, Brian Sikes.
“Looking at our current office space situation in Wichita, we determined a change is required to meet our future needs as a customer-focused, talent-seeking, growth-oriented protein business, operating in a highly competitive business sector,” Sikes said.
“So we embarked on a mission to identify the optimal location where the people responsible for success of our business will have the best opportunity to thrive. After an exhaustive review of our options, a collaborative atmosphere evolved whereby Cargill, the City of Wichita and State of Kansas worked together toward creating the type of business environment that will enable the company to meet its customers’ long-term needs by enhancing our ability to attract, retain and develop top talent," he said.
Cargill also considered quality of life for employees and the disruption to the business from a relocation in making the decision, he said. The company also sought to optimize the use of resources, he said.
According to the Associated Press, Sikes also acknowledged that cuts to state government services and to Wichita schools were a concern as the company weighed whether to stay in the city, especially given the number of its employees with families. He said the company sees its decision to stay in Wichita despite those concerns "as an opportunity to be part of the solution."
“We have a terrific team of productive, knowledgeable and creative people in Wichita, who give a great deal back to the community,” explained Sikes. “We are pleased Cargill employees will remain an important part of the Wichita community and will continue to contribute to the vitality of many organizations throughout the region. We also believe it is beneficial for our protein business to be headquartered in the center of the U.S.”
Sikes said the decision to remain in Wichita is dependent upon the City of Wichita approving a pending agreement between the two entities but did not specify what financial or other incentives the city offered.
“We are pleased that Cargill will continue to call Wichita, Kansas, home for the foreseeable future,” said Gov. Sam Brownback. “This is an investment in our state, a recognition of the quality of the Wichita workforce and the quality of life that can be found in Kansas. We look forward to continuing our strong relationship with Cargill for many years to come.”
“Right from the start, the City of Wichita stepped up to demonstrate its commitment to Cargill and its ongoing success,” said Mayor Jeff Longwell.
Cargill explored locations throughout the middle third of the U.S., Sikes said.
“City and state officials, especially Gov. Sam Brownback, made it crystal clear to us that they were committed to keeping Cargill in Wichita,” stated Sikes. “I know from speaking with our employees here, they are relieved to know of this decision and they are eagerly looking forward to working in a new building that fosters collaboration, efficiency, innovation and excitement. We will continue to focus on growing our protein business, helping our customers be more successful in the protein space and winning in the marketplace.”
Cargill has a soybean crushing plant in Wichita and a beef processing plant in Dodge City, where it recently opened a nearly $50-million distribution center. It also has flour milling and grain handling facilities across the state. About 4,000 Kansans work for Cargill.
Cargill recently acquired a beef plant in Columbia, S. C.; is investing $111 million in a plant conversion for cooked meat products at Columbus, Neb.; and dedicated a $27 million egg processing expansion in Lake Odessa, Mich.
“Together with our new headquarters in Wichita, these are examples of our long-term commitment to grow our protein business,” said Sikes.