Cargill is looking to move its Wichita headquarters, but whether that’s within downtown, where it already is, or outside of it or even outside of Kansas is unclear.
“We’re looking at a variety of options, and that’s really all I can say,” says Mike Martin, director of communications.
City and state officials are working in full gear to make sure Wichita – downtown specifically – is the option Cargill selects.
“We’re taking a very serious, methodical approach to helping Cargill hopefully expand their footprint in Wichita, Kansas,” Mayor Jeff Longwell says.
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Cargill approached the city about a month ago about how it can help with the move. The city is now working with the state on ways to keep the company here.
“This is not just a Wichita issue,” says assistant city manager Scot Rigby.
Longwell and Rigby say there are no specific incentives that the city or state have offered to Cargill.
“We haven’t drilled down to that point yet,” Longwell says. “That’s not what Cargill is asking.”
They say any incentives likely would involve infrastructure help, such as with parking, or assistance with easing the process for a new building, such as with permitting.
Longwell says a cash incentive won’t be an option.
“I can give you some ugly examples of cash not working,” he says.
Martin says Cargill is “in the exploration phase.”
“Nothing’s been decided at this point and time.”
Though Longwell says it’s a serious situation, he says it’s not “that we’re in a panic mode either.”
“They’re not really trying to pit us against the world. They’re just saying, ‘Here’s our potential needs.’ ”
The company, which is headquartered in Minneapolis, has its Wichita headquarters in a 110,000-square-foot, 10-story building at 151 N. Main.
“This is probably the classic office building configuration,” Martin says.
He says that’s not a good thing for the company going forward.
“If you look at the marketplace in terms of people, especially young professionals coming into the marketplace for careers, less and less of them are attracted to traditional office space and office-type buildings,” Martin says. “We’re taking that into consideration to attract millennials and younger people.”
Cargill has 900 employees downtown, including some in leased space at the Ruffin Building at Douglas and Broadway.
“For a while, we had some people over in one of the Garvey buildings,” Martin says.
He says there are “continuity and work-flow issues with having people in multiple buildings.”
Cargill’s Minneapolis complex is undergoing a complete renovation to create more open spaces with fewer traditional offices and cubicles. Martin says the headquarters here needs something more like that, too.
“Certainly, there’s a lot of different factors that we’re looking at.”
That includes parking, which currently is spread over multiple locations.
A more minor consideration is the company’s proximity to Old Town and its restaurants and shopping.
“I don’t think it’s one of the top considerations,” Martin says. “The main thing is the building itself.”
Cargill has had a presence at 151 N. Main since the mid-1980s, when it first leased space before buying the building in the early 1990s.
Its building is home to four headquarters for the company, including its beef business; its turkey and cooked meat business, which includes deli meats; its value-added protein services, including its North American egg business; and its food distribution.
The Cargill Innovation Center is nearby at 300 W. First St., but Martin says it’s premature to comment about whether that may move, too.
“There hasn’t been any discussion about that.”
Cargill also has a 50-employee plant at 13th and Mosley that crushes soybeans to make oil. A few months ago, the company announced it’s making a $50 million expansion there.
Martin won’t discuss whether the headquarters is possibly moving out of Wichita.
“I can’t say. All I can say is we’re looking at a variety of options.”
Longwell says the city and state are proceeding as if the company will move within Wichita.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to see Cargill expand in downtown Wichita,” he says.
“The simple fact that our city continues to improve with quality of life and other amenities … we believe will continue to make us an attractive place for businesses to continue to grow.”