GRIMES (AP) — At Hy-Vee Inc.’s new Helpful Smiles Technology center in Grimes, the corporate culture is more foosball and Starbucks than suits and ties.
Opened earlier this year in a plain-looking but cavernous warehouse that faces a cornfield, the tech center is part of Hy-Vee’s vision for the future.
The space is designed to promote creativity and collaboration, said Matt Nannen, senior vice president of digital development and brand image marketing.
It is filled with work and play spaces and other fringe benefits aimed at attracting in-demand tech workers.
The 104,000-square-foot building houses 230 information technology, digital development and brand marketing workers with room for more.
Some of its offerings include: a Starbucks coffee shop, a walking track that wraps around the inside perimeter of the building, Xbox and PlayStation game desks, a snack area with dispensers that dole out fruit and nut mixes and other snacks, a collaboration space that is a replica of “The Big Bang Theory” television show with couches and action figures on bookshelves, conference rooms named for video games, a basketball court, and exercise and yoga rooms with locker rooms. It also has billiards, foosball and ping pong tables; grocery pickup locker for online orders that are delivered daily; and a permanent food truck with daily specials.
The space is full of reminders of the company’s heritage. There are old Hy-Vee signs and Hy-Vee red (Pantone 485C) touches throughout. The two snack rooms — Megabyte and Gigabyte — have cupboard pulls that are recycled grocery cart handles. The company’s core values are written on a wall. Office windows are etched in bar code style with the skylines of cities where Hy-Vee has a strong presence: Des Moines, Kansas City, Omaha and the Twin Cities.
There’s function along with whimsy. A Hy-Vee check-out lane and gas station replica allows testing of new products and digital processes created on site. An indoor ticker display relays company messages, while a gigantic white board allows for brainstorming.
The cafeteria was made to look like Times Square in New York City with a replicated jumbo video screen, a permanent food truck serving hot and cold entrees, an artificial tree and grass, and a large seating area highlighted with a live moss-covered wall.
Nannen said much of the space was designed taking ideas from other large companies like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter, which a Hy-Vee team toured. And some of the conveniences address the location of the center, which is on the rural edge of Grimes and not close to many restaurants or coffee shops, he said.
By word of mouth, the amenities are getting noticed among job seekers.
“One manager had job hopped to Principal but recently came back,” Nannen said.
The company is planning to add at least 60 more workers at the Helpful Smiles Technology center. Hy-Vee’s focus on “speed to shelf” and getting new products and processes into stores quickly is prompting the expansion.
Hy-Vee spent about $5.2 million creating the space. It used part of the $7.5 million in tax credits awarded by the Iowa Economic Development Authority Board for the technology center and an expansion at the company’s headquarters in West Des Moines.