Northwest Arkansas business execs talk home office expansions
Executives with J.B. Hunt Transport, Simmons Foods, Tyson Foods and Walmart on Tuesday (Feb. 7) spoke about expansion plans at the winter meeting of the Northwest Arkansas Council held at the new Ledger building in downtown Bentonville.
Walmart’s new home office campus has been under construction for roughly two years. Cindi Marsiglio, senior vice president of real estate at Walmart, is overseeing the massive campus build that encompasses roughly 9 city blocks, 12 office buildings and 10 community buildings with outdoor and indoor areas of recreation. She said there are as many as 800 people working on the building site daily at what she calls the “peak of nuisance stage” because of the lane and road closures around the mega block.
“Please be patient with us through this time. We are on track to move into the building in 2025, two years from now, but it will take some time to bring everyone back on campus,” Marsiglio said.
The first public building to open will be the Walton Whole Health & Fitness Center, a 360,000-square-foot facility, and the membership model for the new facility will be open only for associates and their families.
Marsiglio said the health & fitness center was originally a gift from Walmart founders Sam & Helen Walton in 1983, and it has been expanded over the years. She also spoke of Sam Walton Hall, which will be a meeting space located in the center of the campus big enough for groups of 3,000 to 4,000. The large food outlet on campus will also feature 12 vendors, and the campus will also be a green space that will include more than 5,000 trees being incubated now off campus.
“The design allows for community interaction, and it will be a beautiful place to work and play, hopefully, something Mr. Sam would be proud of. Keeping the designs simple in a humble way but functional for today,” she said.
Tyson Foods is in the midst of a home office consolidation program that is also well underway. Jane Duke, associate general counsel at Tyson, said she was a lead ambassador in the recruiting process that began last fall when the company opted to consolidate its three corporate offices into the Springdale World Headquarters.
She said uprooting employee families in Chicago and Dakota Dunes, S.D., to relocate to Springdale was quite the undertaking in a rising interest rate environment. She said Tyson worked hard to ensure the employees had the easiest move possible.
Duke said Tyson worked to reduce mortgage interest rates for families wanting to move but not wanting to pay a higher interest rate. She said Tyson also worked with other companies in the region to ensure trailing spouses had the opportunity to find employment that fit their career aspirations. The University of Arkansas also agreed to grant families immediate residency status for their college-age kids.
“We know affordable childcare is a huge problem in the region, and that’s why we are opening a child-care center just off campus that will add capacity and be affordable for Tyson employees,” Duke said.
Tyson Foods has not said exactly how many of the around 1,000 employees have made or will make the move to Northwest Arkansas. Tyson CEO Donnie King said the recruitment went about like the company planned.
J.B. Hunt Transport is also growing its corporate campus, having recently acquired a 9-acre business park in Lowell for $18 million. Nick Hobbs, chief operating officer at J.B. Hunt, said since 2019, the company has added nearly 10,000 employees at its U.S. facilities. The Lowell home office employs around 5,200, and all but the technology employees have returned to the office after working from home during the pandemic.
Hobbs said the buildings in the business park, which are located 0.5 miles from the main campus, will be remodeled to house the technology workers who will return by September. He said the company also has 39 acres in western Benton County that will be a solar field designed to provide 70% of the company’s power on its corporate campus.
“We continue to grow our business, reaching $15 billion in revenue this past year. With the recent purchase of the business park in Lowell, we should have the space for a parking garage and capacity for 20,000 employees on the combined corporate campus in the next decade,” he said.
Todd Simmons, CEO of Simmons Foods, said much of the work it’s doing is about continuing to help solve problems for its workforce in western Benton County. Simmons has corporate facilities located up and down U.S. 59.
Simmons and his father, Mark, have worked with communities along U.S. 59, Decatur, Gentry, Gravette and Jay, Okla., on issues like more affordable housing and access to childcare. He said working with the University of Arkansas and its program to facilitate in-home childcare, more employees have found affordable childcare solutions within their small communities.
Simmons said the company is working on corporate consolidation of its seven locations along U.S. 59, involving about 360 corporate office employees.
“It won’t be a bike-friendly building, but it will be pet-friendly,” Simmons said.