The J.R. Simplot Co. isn’t done stamping its presence on Downtown Boise.
The company — one of Idaho’s largest and most storied — is building a new headquarters between Front, Myrtle, 9th and 11th streets. When it is finished next fall, the nine-story building will share the campus where the J.R. Simplot Family Foundation is opening the five-story Jack’s Urban Meeting Place with a series of open houses this month.
The 265,000-square-foot headquarters and its 60,000-square-foot annex will give Simplot space to consolidate operations now scattered around the Treasure Valley under a single roof. The headquarters will be one of the largest office buildings in Idaho. Simplot’s employee ranks in Boise will increase from 500 to 800 when the building opens, spokesman Ken Dey said.
In addition to JUMP and the new company headquarters, the Simplot family is also behind the 55-acre Esther Simplot Park under construction in West Boise.
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Those workers and their corporate incomes will benefit Downtown businesses, said Pat Rice, executive director of the Greater Boise Auditorium District.
“Adding that many more people Downtown will add vibrancy to the restaurant, food and beverage scene,” Rice said. “Lunchtime and postwork times will be busy.”
“JUMP will add tremendous opportunity for added experience in the marketplace, but the headquarters will add a stronger economic impact to Downtown,” Rice said.
Simplot has outgrown its current Downtown headquarters in the 14-story One Capital Center at 999 Main St., Dey said. Needing more office space, the company seized the opportunity to bring in employees from outlying parts of the Treasure Valley.
“We’re committed to Downtown and proud to be a part of it,” he said. “We never considered building at a different site, and being able to have our new headquarters as JUMP allows our employees to also share in all that JUMP offers.”
The headquarters will feature earth tones on the facade and interior to pay homage to Simplot’s agricultural roots, Dey said.
The company averages $6 billion in annual revenues and operates overseas in Canada, Mexico, Australia and China. In addition to food processing, Dey said, the company’s divisions include AgriBusiness (fertilizer production, mining and grower solutions), Land and Livestock (ranching, farming and feed lots), Simplot Australia (food processing and retail food brands) and Plant Sciences (developing genetically enhanced crops).
1,800 Simplot employees in the Treasure Valley
Simplot now houses its Food Group employees off South Federal way in east Boise. Those employees and information-technology workers will move to the headquarters, bringing all Boise employees except the Plant Sciences division Downtown, Dey said.
About 80 percent of the headquarters will be office space, Dey said. The annex will contain labs to develop and test products.
The headquarters’ narrow design, high ceilings and large windows will flood the office space with natural light, Dey said. The blueprint calls for open office space with few private offices.
While the site includes a seven-acre underground parking garage, Rice said he expects the campus to increase parking and traffic congestion.
FRESH CUSTOMER CROP
Simplot’s 10-acre campus is spurring development on another long-neglected Downtown block, immediately to the west: The space bordered by Front, Myrtle, 11th and 13th streets where Gardner Co. plans two hotels.
The combined projects will add tall buildings to the skyline and encourage even more development to the south and west, Rice said.
And the employee influx could help fill six condominium and high-end apartment buildings under construction Downtown, said Lynn Hightower, executive director of the Downtown Boise Association.
“More people living here makes Downtown as much a neighborhood as a destination,” she said. “In that sense, the folks at Simplot are very good neighbors.”
Simplot moved into One Capital Center 40 years ago. At the time, the building was Idaho’s tallest. Founder J.R. Simplot ran his company from a 13th-floor office. The business had its headquarters in Burley in the 1930s and Caldwell in the 1940s before moving to Boise in the mid-1940s, Dey said.
By then, the company was shipping 500 million pounds of processed potatoes, thanks in part to its agreement to supply McDonald’s with french fries.
Simplot was in the process of expanding from its core food processing business into agribusiness, land and livestock, Dey said. The new divisions fueled growth from about 5,800 employees in 1974 to nearly 7,000 in 1977, Dey said.
Today, Simplot has about 10,000 employees and has roughly doubled its revenues since 2003.
By the numbers
- Simplot’s new headquarters is made of:
- 16,800 yards of concrete
- 515 tons of structural steel
- 3.3 million feet of electrical wire
- More than 6,000 LED light fixtures
- More than 3,700 outlets and light switches
Source: J.R. Simplot Co.