3M embarks on a makeover for its HQ

  • Article by: SUSAN FEYDER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 16, 2011 - 9:05 PM

Its campus in Maplewood is being redesigned to create spaces that encourage interaction and creativity among employees.

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3M’s renovation will create seven “collaboration hubs” such as this — skyway-level areas where employees can meet, brainstorm or get information.

3M Co. may project its image as a world-class institution that nurtures innovation, but that's hardly the impression you get when you visit its 1960s-era headquarters.

The Maplewood corporate campus consists of 25 nondescript office and research buildings, some linked by skyways, but mostly existing as separate silos. Much of their interiors are cut up by offices and cubicles. Modestly appointed visitor lobbies offer few clues that this is home to a global giant that develops more than 1,000 new products a year.

That's about to change. A central portion of the campus that houses 6,000 of its 10,000 employees is undergoing the most ambitious makeover since the first building was constructed there in 1955. Work on the project, whose cost 3M will not disclose, began this month and is scheduled to be completed next spring.

The company says the project was spearheaded by CEO George Buckley, who believes the headquarters should better reflect 3M's global status, focus on innovation and provide more opportunities for creativity and collaboration among employees.

"Over the years we've done a fair amount of renovation, but it's mostly been carpeting and painting upkeep," said Tom Heim, director of 3M administrative services. "This is a different approach that's meant to be more transformative."

While the impetus for the project came from Buckley, none of the work involves renovating executives' offices or the boardroom. "The focus is on common areas on lower levels used by most people -- employees, customers, suppliers and visitors," Heim said.

The changes will put 3M's headquarters on a more equal footing with corporate offices built in recent years that typically include more places for employees to interact informally, said Tim Murnane, CEO of Minnetonka-based Opus Holdings.

Opus isn't involved in the 3M project, but its area office developments include Medtronic Inc.'s cardiac rhythm management division in Mounds View. The complex's three buildings are linked by a seven-story area with conferencing areas to promote interaction.

Another Opus project, the Best Buy Co. Inc. campus in Richfield, has a 215,000-square-foot hub that links all the office towers. "The goal was to encourage casual collisions of employees to share ideas and foster creativity," Murnane said.

Although it's tucked into a downtown location, Target Corp.'s Minneapolis headquarters developed by Ryan Cos. also has plenty of informal meeting space, including a large second-floor lounge outfitted with armchairs and a baby grand piano.

These types of amenities can make a corporate campus a valuable employee recruiting tool, Murnane said.

'Collaboration hubs'

3M's renovation will create seven "collaboration hubs" on the skyway level in three buildings, with casual seating for employees. "We expect these to be places where people can drop in or meet as groups for brainstorming sessions," Heim said. The hubs also will have touchscreens for employees to get product, technology and sales information. "A lot of this information is tucked away in somebody's computer or files. The idea is to make it more accessible," Heim said.

Great Hall and employee mall

Larger informal meeting spaces include a Great Hall for product displays and special events. It will have an entry large enough to accommodate 3M-sponsored NASCAR vehicles. A 120-car parking lot in the middle of the four buildings is being replaced with a landscaped plaza with seating areas and places for business and social events, including a farmers market in warmer months.

Heim said an employee survey found many people had trouble finding services like the company store, salon and dry cleaners that are now scattered throughout the campus. They'll be brought together in a new employee mall, along with new services such as a bank and vision care, he said.

The building that houses executive row will get a new entrance and lobby with media and refreshment services for visitors. It will have double-height ceilings and a long mirrored wall that will reflect new exterior landscaping. "You'll now recognize you're at a significant corporation," said Josh Stowers, a principal at Meyer Scherer & Rockcastle, the Minneapolis firm that is executive architect of the project.

Stowers said Buckley closely monitored the project as it evolved from design concepts to actual building plans. "He was very involved in our meetings, looking over models, asking questions," Stowers said. "He was not sitting back like some kind of armchair quarterback."

Susan Feyder • 612-673-1723

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