The world’s largest furniture business group IKEA has started construction at its newest site, along the I-35 corridor in Merriam, Kan.
The Swedish retailer is billing itself as a destination attraction and promises 300 permanent jobs.
Five hundred construction jobs are expected in the 18 months to build the complex.
Company officials say further that retail employees working over 20 hours a week get full-time benefits, 401(k) matching and paid vacation.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback welcomed the project and Merriam Mayor Ken Sissom said Brownback’s attendance signaled the first time a governor made an official visit since the late 1980’s when Mike Hayden dedicated the 75th Street Bridge.
The land is just north of City Hall, a site were dirt is now being bulldozed. As the Mayor put it, looking at the ground where he was standing, “we are sitting on top of some houses. There were houses all up and down here. There was a street … and it went down to Johnson Drive and they took them out. I think they took sixty some houses out of here.”
The firm’s main company, Inter Ikea Group reported a 2012 net profit of €443 million, up from €87 million in 2011.
There were disputes up to the day before groundbreaking over naming of a key street past the complex. Eby Street that has run between Shawnee Mission Parkway and Johnson Drive was ordered renamed. The City Council acted on a request from the new company to name it IKEA Way. The change will not take effect until October 1.
IKEA representative Beth Matkins said the change was important for web based mapping and GPS locating. She said the company expects shoppers from hundreds of miles away and it will help people find the store, the only one of its kind in Kansas.
Twice in the past the City has named streets to reflect businesses, Lee Drive and Carmax Way.
Opponents said those streets were in new developments and not existing streets. Other concerns were that the City changed addresses for City Hall and the Police Department about a year ago and it makes the City look indecisive.
The IKEA Way change will place the two official City office addresses on West 62nd Street instead of Eby Street, their long time locations.
IKEA agreed to pay the City $15,000 to change signs and stationery.