AFTER 44 years in Decatur, Ill., Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM) is looking for a new home.
The grain trading and processing giant announced Sept. 23 that it will establish a new global headquarters and customer center somewhere other than its current hometown.
"Our company is growing and becoming more global and more customer-centric," said Patricia Woertz, ADM chair and chief executive officer. "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."
While plans are still in the exploratory stages and the company underscored its ongoing commitment to Decatur, those comments make it sound like ADM is a bit bearish on Illinois' 15th-largest city.
Decatur, sometimes known as the "soybean capital of the world," has been home to ADM since its move from Minneapolis, Minn., in 1968, and it will remain the company's North American headquarters.
However, the city lost nearly 20% of its population between 1980 and 2010 (tallying a little more than 76,000 as of the 2010 census), and it is roughly a three-hour drive southwest of Chicago, Ill., and two hours northeast of St. Louis, Mo. Those factors don't make for the most attractive location for a global headquarters.
Competitors Cargill and Bunge, for example, are located in more metropolitan and more accessible areas — Minneapolis and a suburb of New York City, respectively.
ADM employs more than 4,400 workers in Decatur, and Woertz said no layoffs are expected as part of the move. Rather, the company will create a global headquarters and "customer center," with some 100 corporate staffers relocating from Decatur and another 100 positions added via a new information technology center at the new site.
ADM is in discussions with public officials of potential new homes but did not disclose which cities are being considered. Comments from Chicago officials indicated that their city is in the running, with Minneapolis and St. Louis each rumored to be on a very short list of locations under consideration.
In addition to its North American headquarters in Decatur, the company maintains regional headquarters in Switzerland, Brazil and China.
Commitment to Decatur
While moving the executive office of the city's largest employer is likely quite concerning to Decatur officials, ADM attempted to soothe the pain with an enhanced financial commitment to local development and education.
"To ensure that Decatur remains a strong and vibrant community for years to come, we are also announcing several multiyear financial commitments," Woertz said. "We are investing in Decatur's economic development to help ensure that it flourishes economically, in its schools to foster a strong workforce pipeline and in critical social services to enhance the quality of community life."
Those investments include a $250,000 commitment for each of the next three years to fund an enhanced public/private partnership and unified marketing campaign for the city and Macon County, as well as a $500,000 contribution annually for five years to the public school district.
ADM said it will maintain its other community support commitments, which have tallied more than $1 million annually for at least 10 years.
"We need to turn this thing around and not look at it as disastrous," Decatur Mayor Mike McElroy told the local Herald-Review. "We should look at it as an opportunity. ADM is not leaving Decatur. They proved today they still care about Decatur."
ADM is very much a global company, however, doing business in more than 140 countries. Earlier in the year, it successfully brokered an agreement to acquire Australian grain handler GrainCorp, a transaction that is expected to close later this year.