News Column

ADM Looks for New HQ

September 24, 2013

Tim Logan and Nicholas J.C. Pistor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Sept. 23--Agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland is shopping around for a new town to call home, and St. Louis says it'll lay out the welcome mat.

Based on the company's criteria, though, the Gateway City would appear to be a long shot.

ADM said Monday that it plans to move about 100 top executives from the company's longtime headquarters in Decatur, Ill., to a new city with better global air connections, world-class professional services and more job opportunities for spouses.

"Our company is growing and becoming more global and more customer-centric," said Chief Executive Patricia Woertz. "To continue to succeed, we need a global center in a location that allows us to travel and work efficiently with customers and employees throughout the world. We also need an environment where we can attract and retain employees with diverse skills, and where family members can find ample career opportunities."

The company likely will make the move next year, said spokesman David Weintraub. It also plans to add 100 new IT jobs at its headquarters over the next several years. Aside from its headquarters move, ADM's operations in Decatur, and its 4,400 jobs there, will stay put.

"We have good access here to employees in agriculture. But employees that are in disciplines that wrap around agriculture can be harder," Weintraub said. "IT, marketing and communications. Those kind of people can ply their trade anywhere. They might not want to move to a rural town."

The setup ADM described would be not unlike Boeing Co.'s headquarters in Chicago, or Anheuser-Busch InBev's New York office, which house small teams of top executives in close proximity to high-end financial, legal and marketing talent, while the bulk of the company's facilities and people remain in their long-standing locations.

But even with just 200 jobs, the corporate headquarters of the 27th-largest company in the Fortune 500 would be a prize.

St. Louis officials said Monday that they plan to take their best shot. The region has a strong agribusiness sector -- with Monsanto Co., Bunge North America and other big players already based here -- and a deep plant science research base, said Katy Jamboretz, spokeswoman for the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership. Plus it's just a two-hour drive to Decatur -- though Weintraub said he couldn't discuss how important geographic proximity would be to ADM. "This is one of those projects that just perfectly aligns with what we're good at," Jamboretz said. "There are few other cities in the world that can compete with us on plant sciences."

Still, it would appear Chicago has the inside track.

A "knowledgeable source" told the Chicago Tribune that that city was ADM's preferred site, thanks in part to the flights available through Chicago-O'Hare International Airport. And a spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel confirmed that the city has started talks with ADM.

"This is a dynamic, global company that is a leader in a key industry, and we believe that they are a good fit with what Chicago has to offer," said Tom Alexander. "We'll do our best to keep them in Illinois."

St. Louis officials said Monday that they haven't yet talked with ADM. Otis Williams, executive director of the city-run St. Louis Development Corp., said his office reached out to the company Monday to start conversations. "We'll be working very hard at it," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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Original headline: ADM shopping for new HQ. Is St. Louis in the mix?

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Source: (c)2013 St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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