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Cerner will squeeze workers into one Kansas City campus, and abandon its other office spaces

A modern-looking sign sits on the ground in front of a wooded area. The sign reads "Cerner." Behind it is a large, multi-story building.
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
Oracle announced last week that it would be closing Cerner's world headquarters located in North Kansas City and the Realizations campus in south Kansas City in order to consolidate those workers to the Innovations campus on Hillcrest Road.

Cerner, the city's largest private employer, is closing its world headquarters in North Kansas City and Realization Campus in South Kansas City. The moves come just months after the company was acquired by Oracle in a multi-billion-dollar deal.

Just months after being acquired by Oracle, Cerner plans to close its world headquarters in North Kansas City and its Realization Campus in south Kansas City and move employees to its Innovations Campus at the former Bannister Mall site.

Oracle told employees in an email Friday that the move was intended to allow workers to have more flexibility and better utilize their 2-million-square-foot facility on Hillcrest Road off I-435.

"As you know, Oracle Cerner strongly supports workplace flexibility to help our employees perform their roles in the most productive way possible," the email read.

The two campuses will close as of November 30.

"Any associates who have permanent desks at WHQ or Realization will receive assigned workplaces at Innovations, and flex workspace will be available at Innovations for our associates who work a hybrid schedule. Plans for a relocation of other elements of the existing campuses, including the data center and Experience Center, will be completed soon."

It’s the latest move by Cerner to downsize its once-sprawling office footprint throughout the Kansas City metro.

Just last year, Cerner put its office towers in western Kansas City, Kansas, up for sale and moved employees out. The decision surprised Wyandotte County leaders, who just more than a decade before had made a significant push to have Cerner’s presence near Village West.

Cerner had been in North Kansas City for far longer than it had been in Wyandotte County, and Monday’s announcement was news to North Kansas City Mayor Bryant DeLong, who first learned about the closure on social media.

But he is optimistic North Kansas City can find someone to make use of Cerner’s nearly 40-year-old real estate.

“You know, we’re not super shocked,” DeLong said. “Anytime you see any sort of acquisition like this, you kind of start to think about it a little bit.”

Oracle purchased the medical software company — the largest private employer in Kansas City — in June for $28 billion. Cerner employs more than 12,700 local full-time workers at four campuses throughout the Kansas City area, according to the Kansas City Business Journal, and more than 25,000 employees worldwide.

DeLong said he had already noticed a decreasing workforce physically showing up in North Kansas City. He said area businesses had already been getting used to seeing fewer workers at the world headquarters.

“I can anticipate it'll probably be a little bit worse, but not too much worse on stuff like a sales tax because of the pandemic and more of Cerner’s employees working remotely,” DeLong said.

DeLong says the most immediate consequences is the loss of Cerner’s annual business license, which netted North Kansas City $150,000 a year.

John Sharp, a former Kansas City Council member and president of the South Kansas City Alliance, said he has mixed feelings about the move.

The Innovations Campus includes includes restaurants, a fitness center, daycare and other amenities. Sharp says that means some workers there don’t necessarily spend money or a lot of time in the area. But it has brought some economic benefits to south Kansas City.

“Since it’s opened, quite a few Cerner employees have moved to this area,” Sharp said. “And now we’re seeing more development on the site, such as the recently opened Hampton Inn and the Arvest Bank that’s under construction.”

Cerner started building the Innovations Campus in 2014. At the time, Cerner officials said they expected that some 16,000 employees would work at the new office park. Kansas City leaders approved a tax increment financing plan to aid with the cost of the Innovations Campus.

But growth at the Innovations Campus had not been quite what was envisioned when the project started.

Sharp said he is disappointed the Marion Park Drive location could be sitting empty. Cerner bought the offices belonging to the former Marion Laboratories in southeast Kansas City as one of the company’s first major office expansions in the Kansas City area.

“It is distressing though that the Realization Campus will be closed,” he said. “That’s a major office facility here. That’s certainly not a welcome development.”

Steve Vockrodt is the investigative editor for the Midwest Newsroom.
As KCUR’s general assignment reporter and visual journalist, I bring our audience inside the daily stories that matter most to the people of the Kansas City metro, showing how and why events affect residents. Through my photography, I seek to ensure our diverse community sees itself represented in our coverage. Email me at carlos@kcur.org.
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