Wal-Mart Stores will build a new home office campus in Bentonville. Wal-Mart corporate spokesman Randy Hargrove said associates were made aware of the plans Friday (Sept. 15) morning in an announcement from CEO Doug McMillon.
The project will be built in phases, and Hargrove said the company anticipates construction will take between 5 to 7 years. He said there are no immediate plans for a groundbreaking.
“This is something that has been under consideration for a few years,” Hargrove said. “We will formally begin the process of working with county and state officials and other stakeholders to begin to move the process forward. There’s a tremendous amount of planning and coordination that needs to take place before construction.”
The new corporate campus will be built on the east side of Southeast J Street, bordered by Arkansas Highway 102 to the south and Arkansas Highway 72 (Central Avenue) to the north.
Wal-Mart’s home office is now at the corner of 8th and Walton has grown since first established by Sam Walton in the 1970s. Hargrove said it would be hard to say how many square feet the property is.
“The buildings we have are really beyond their shelf life,” Hargrove said. “It has grown into a patchwork of locations through the years. This will get everybody together and will help us attract the next generation of talent to compete.”
As reported in July by Talk Business & Politics-Northwest Arkansas Business Journal, Wal-Mart has been busy acquiring land in the area in anticipation of moving forward with the new home office. At the time, Wal-Mart Director of Communications Anne Hatfield said the property purchases were simply to give the retailer “options if we decided we need (additional land) one day.”
A search of Benton County real estate records found more than two dozen land acquisitions completed by Wal-Mart or related entities between June 2016 and July 7, 2017. The properties, totaling 31.09 acres, are along East Central Avenue, Southeast Moberly Lane, and Southeast Eighth and J streets. They range from single-family homes and commercial buildings to vacant lots.
Hargrove told Talk Business & Politics on Friday that most home office employees working at multiple locations in Northwest Arkansas will work at the new headquarters, with the exception of Sam’s Club employees. Sam’s Club is headquartered in a 382,000-square-foot, four-story building just off Moberly Lane in Bentonville.
Hargrove said “a lot of planning and design work” need to take place before a construction cost would be known. He said he anticipates there are some Wal-Mart-owned buildings at the new home office site “that will no longer be in place” to make way for the new construction. Most of them were once Wal-Mart warehouses that have since been converted for a variety of uses (associate store, layout center, employment center, office space, etc.) There’s also a large amount of property used for trailer parking and truck maintenance.
He said the campus would include a new fitness center, meal center and would be integrated into the community trail system.
The Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce also responded to Wal-Mart’s announcement with the following statement:
“We are excited about the commitment Walmart is making to our city and to our state. This announcement makes a long term commitment to Northwest Arkansas that Walmart is here to stay as they continue to be the backbone of our economy and help make the area a great place to live and work. We look forward to the new Walmart campus and the positive impact to our city, region and the state of Arkansas.”
UPDATED INFO, VIDEO OF HOME OFFICE HISTORY
Wal-Mart officials provided more details in a media packet posted at 10:30 a.m. on the corporate website.
The company said three goals are driving the process to build the new corporate headquarters. The goals are:
• Winning work environment;
• True to who we are; and
• Enhanced experience.
The winning work environment goal includes breaking down silos, creating productivity “through connected buildings,” and accelerating “digital transformation.” As to the enhanced experience, the company said the facilities will include the “natural beauty of the region – regional materials, natural light.”
McMillon said in a statement the “patchwork of more than 20 buildings” that now serves as home office space does not meet the company’s mission and workforce needs. He told employees Friday morning that the move is a “stake in the ground to say this is a company that’s going to be here in 50 years time or more.”
“We intend to bring most of our Home Office associates in Northwest Arkansas onto a central campus with accommodations for a more digitally native workforce and space that encourages greater collaboration and speed,” McMillon said. “You’ll see improved parking, meal services, fitness, and natural light – yes, natural light. Plus, the campus will be integrated into the community trail system, for easy walking and cycling access. The combined changes will help us get the most out of our existing team, while helping us attract high-quality talent in the future. I can assure you the project will be true to our roots, supporting a culture of servant leadership, which puts customers and associates first, and maintaining our commitment to fiscal and environmental responsibility.”