Cargill Protein was justifiably proud of its new headquarters in Wichita, Kansas, during a recent open house for the media to showcase the facility.

The headquarters, located in the city’s Old Town District which is part of the historic Chisolm Trail, was designed with input from Cargill employees, and as a result, the employees should directly benefit from the new facility, as should those who visit and do business with Cargill.

Cargill in 1996 announced it intended to relocate its protein headquarters from its Main Street location in Wichita as it “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.”

The company opted to stay in Wichita, and later purchased the former Wichita Eagle newspaper building. But rather than remodel the existing building, the former Eagle office was demolished and the new facility was built with a lot of input from those who were to work there.

"That feedback came directly from our employees that they wanted to be downtown, a place where they could shop, that they could go out to eat and have access to the outside, the outdoors and be a part of a vibrant, growing downtown community," Tom Windish, president of Cargill Protein's Retail Channel said while guiding journalists on the tour.

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Tom Windish | Photo by Roy Graber

Highlights of new headquarters

About 800 people work from the Wichita office, but Windish says it was built for collaboration and growth. The facility connects Cargill’s Wichita-based employees with 28,000 additional colleagues across North America and more than three dozen protein production facilities in the U.S. and Canada.

Among the facility’s key features are:

  • Break rooms on each floor of the building featuring complimentary coffee and infused water stations.
  • A Café with food for purchase as well as microwaves, refrigerators, premium coffee, and game tables. The Café also features a 24-hour grab-and-go station.
  • A 24-hour “C-Store” where employees can buy personal convenience items, grab-and-go food and beverages, and Cargill branded items.
  • A team dining room, called “The Connection Place,” to encourage camaraderie and celebration among peers.
  • An outdoor courtyard featuring a grill, fire pit, and walking path.
  • Employee locker rooms, showers and bike racks for employees utilizing any of the exercise options downtown Wichita has to offer including a Bike Share program.
  • Sit-stand workstations.
  • A variety of work spaces including collaboration spaces, outdoor Wi-Fi enabled work/lounge spaces, and Focus Rooms for informal meetings.
  • Wellness Rooms on each floor for personal needs and wellness support.
  • An immersive technology conference room that enables employees to collaborate easier and faster with their colleagues in global locations from Buenos Aires to Geneva to Shanghai. 
  • A presentation kitchen to connect customers and visitors to food solutions and inspired culinary innovation.
  • A sensory center that allows Cargill and its customers to conduct product research, focus groups and product testing.

While those features are nice, there were other highlights that impressed me.

Windish pointed out that the cattle buyers and others who work from cubicles formerly sat in a central part of the office without window access. The new facility offers those people plenty of window space and the ability to see outside and not feel so confined.

There is a time for work, but when a break is needed, there is a nice outdoor, upper-level deck that offers a place to sit, dine, visit, or play a game of cornhole. A game room, which includes things like foosball and billiard tables is nearby.

Local artwork also lines the walls and gives it a nice, homey atmosphere. My favorite was the plate wall, a 28-foot wide custom art display of ceramic plates that serves as the backdrop to the open central staircase that connects all four floors of the building. 800 plates were commissioned from local ceramicist Greg Lathrop and are all hand-thrown using local clay. This installation, according to the company, represents Cargill Protein’s values with the use of humble materials made into dinnerware to symbolize where Cargill Protein’s work meets the consumer.

Two dinner scenes are showcased on the fourth floor, showing how people enjoy meals both in their homes and outside of them. These images feature Cargill Protein brands and were shot by Wichita photographer Gavin Peters at Cargill’s culinary innovation center nearby. | Photo courtesy of Cargill

The new facility also offers those who do business with Cargill a welcoming atmosphere, and one that can accommodate them as they do their jobs.

A good investment

According to Windish, the facility came with a $70 million investment, but it appears to be one that will pay off.

I had blogged before that I was sad to see the Wichita Eagle building go down, as I had briefly interned there over a Christmas break while in college. There were others present for the media tour who were past and present Eagle employees, and a couple of those indicated how surreal it was to be in a new building in the same spot.

But after seeing the new building, there is no more sadness for me. The Cargill tour gave me more memories.

I couldn’t be happier for the Cargill Protein workers. Happy workers are productive workers, and it was quite apparent that they fit both descriptions.