By LYNETTE HAALAND
Four Points News
Some 800 local, 3M employees will be moving from its 156-acre campus at 6801 River Place Blvd. to a new building off Parmer Lane in Northeast Austin by April 2019. The announcement comes after 3M shared with employees last week that it has reached a deal to sell the campus with 11 buildings to World Class Capital, a private investment firm that focuses on real estate.
The move affects hundreds of employees who both live and work in Four Points. Local 3M employees include engineers, and research and development, marketing, and supply chain positions.
One 3M employee moved to Austin 20 years ago and built in the Four Points area to be close to work. He shared his thoughts on this announcement and requested to remain anonymous.
“We have no details outside of where the new site is and estimated move date for the first wave, April 2018,” he said.
Employees got a brief email on June 28 about the move, he said. “I would guess the method that was chosen (to make the announcement via email) was in anticipation of some level of disappointment. The negative backlash in the office would prove this theory correct if in fact that is what was expected.”
He is not “happy about the location selected as we chose were to live based on proximity to work,” he said,
3M will be leasing the current space in Four Points until their move into new facilities, said Lori Anderson, a spokesperson for 3M.
“We are investing in a new building,” Anderson said. “It will be state-of-the-art and construction will begin later this year.”
Construction of the new 272,000-square-feet of space in the Tech Ridge area of Northeast Austin will begin in the last part of this year, Anderson said.
The 114-year-old innovation company based in Minnesota has many products including Post It notes and Scotch Guard to cell phone parts, fiber optics and touch screen hardware.
In 1988, 3M employees started to fill the Four Points campus. It has 1.2 million-square-feet of space including offices, laboratories and an on-site co-generation utility plant that powers the 3M campus.
Anderson said the transaction to World Class Capital, for an undisclosed sum, is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2017. The campus has an assessed value of more than $80 million, according to the Travis Central Appraisal District.
World Class did not immediately respond to a request for comment on what their plans are for the property.
The local resident who is a 3M employee said he sees several issues for himself and many others about the announcement to move 3M out of Four Points.
This move will turn an approximate six-mile drive to work into a 24-mile drive for many, he said.
“Another 90 minutes to a daily commute negatively impacts work/life balance to such a high degree it doesn’t fit with the corporate values we are being told,” he said.
While 15 miles might not seem like a major move, it is when you take the Austin traffic into consideration, he added.
“There are 3M families who left Steiner to move to River Place because of the traffic on 620 and at the 620/2222 intersection… back to square one in terms of traffic issues and commute times,” he said.
Also he said that looking at housing in the area of the new site is “not promising”.
“You are taken almost 30 minutes out until you can find something relatively acceptable. It is not something I would describe as an affluent area and AISD does not rank anywhere near the LISD or RRISD school system,” he said.
3M employees were told that all of their zip codes were put in and potential locations analyzed based on that. But he does not think that the new site is “even close to a central location.”
“I find it really difficult to believe that this was the best they could come up with. There seems to be plenty of land or development sites much closer than what was picked,” he said.
The 3M employee said what if the tables were turned.
“I literally can’t imagine the outrage if they made an announcement that our corporate headquarters was moving 15 miles to the west from St. Paul (Maplewood) to Minneapolis. The traffic encountered along the primary route, Interstate 94, would be horrendous. By moving this site 15 miles to the east that’s basically what they’ve done here in Austin,” he concluded.
3M also has a manufacturing facility on Research Boulevard and this move will not affect that.
The company put the Four Points campus up for sale and announced that in August of 2016.
3M’s Anderson could not say how much space the approximate 800 employees will take up in the new facilities or if there will be room to add more employees.
“When we announced this to employees in August of last year, we said we look forward to growing our global business center for 3M in Austin,” she said.