Wal-Mart’s new modern corporate headquarters campus will be a far cry from the dime store Sam Walton bought in 1945.
It will have a new fitness center, improved parking, meal service options and ample natural light, according to company spokesman Randy Hargrove.
“But we’ll still be close,” he said. “We did not consider moving out of Northwest Arkansas. It was really important that we continue to be a presence within Northwest Arkansas. We have always taken our role in the community seriously, especially in this area. Sam Walton started the company here, our focus has been on locating a new company headquarters in Bentonville and I think there’s a sense of pride in continuing to be a part of the community.”
The campus will be constructed in phases on 350-acre tract of land east of J Street and Highway 102 in Bentonville over the next 5 to 7 years.
“That’s going to include initial planning, design, coordination, as well as the time needed to ready the property and begin construction,” Hargrove explained. “One of the things that we’re going to have to consider is that within that tract of land we’ve got about 5,000 associates that are in buildings that are on that property so we’re going to have to make orderly transitions for them so they can continue to do their jobs as we get the construction process going.”
There is a 1.9 million square-foot distribution operation located within the tract that will be home to the new campus, Hargrove said.
“There is already a fitness center on that property now, so we will be relocating that fitness facility to the other end of that tract of land. That will be first because that is a very popular benefit among our associates.”
The project was announced in September, but, according to Hargrove, there are still several unknown factors. The firm that will design the building has not yet been selected, and even an estimated cost, according to Hargrove, is not yet available.
“There has been some speculation on some stories I’ve seen floating around over the past week, but there’s a lot of planning and design that has to take place before we know the final cost,” he said. “But what I’ll tell you is that it’s going to be done in phases and the cost of the project will be part of our annual budgeting process, so it’s not like we’re going to set aside one big chunk of money to pay for this.”
The new headquarters building will consolidate staff currently housed in about 20 other office buildings across the state. Having those associates on one campus is expected to streamline operations.
“We think that the building itself will ultimately hold about 14 to 17,000 associates,” said Hargrove, who couldn’t say how that compares to the number currently employed.
Hargrove said many of the 20 office buildings in Northwest Arkansas are “past their shelf lives” and are costly to maintain, which was another factor in the decision to build a new headquarters.
“We’ve contemplated a new home office for a number of years,” Hargrove said. “We believe the new facilities are going to help us accelerate change and accommodate a more digitally native workforce and so certainly as we move forward we believe it’s going to help us attract the next generation of talent we need to compete and get the most out of our existing teams.”