BY DIANE STAFFORD
Cerner Corp. co-founder Neal Patterson has often explained the company this way: It sits at the intersection of health care and technology.
Chief operating officer Mike Nill echoed that point Thursday morning at a ribbon-cutting for the company’s newest office campus in south Kansas City.
The sprawling property, stretching from 87th to 95th streets immediately east of Interstate 435, emphasizes that nexus in brick and mortar. The 290-acre campus is being laced with visual references to Cerner’s role in software development for the digitization and sharing of health records.
Its existing and planned roads are named after historic health and science leaders. Windows in the first two office towers are designed to evoke the DNA helix turned on its side. The buildings bear on-campus addresses numbered in the power of two, a nod to binary code used in computer science and math. The interiors reflect cutting-edge office planning.
About 3,000 software engineers and support staff are assigned to the new Innovations Campus, most of them relocated from Cerner’s nearby Realization Campus, which grew from the former Marion Laboratories complex and will continue to be remodeled to suit Cerner’s needs.
Nill emphasized at the ribbon-cutting that Cerner doesn’t intend to abandon any of its existing seven properties in the Kansas City area. It’s counting on growth to fill them all.
The Innovations ribbon-cutting, attended by a who’s who of Kansas City-area civic leaders including Mayor Sly James, showcased the first two structures on the new campus.
According to a 10-year development plan, Innovations is intended to mushroom into a $4.45 billion complex with 16 buildings housing 16,000 Cerner workers in about 4.7 million square feet of new construction. The former Bannister Mall site is being developed with about $1.76 billion in public tax subsidies.
Cerner, the area’s largest private-sector employer, has its world headquarters at 2800 Rockcreek Parkway in North Kansas City. The company also has its Continuous office campus near The Legends in Kansas City, Kan., as well as smaller facilities elsewhere in the metro area.
The company has about 12,800 workers in the Kansas City area and about 24,000 worldwide.
The software engineering staff at the Innovations Campus has access to a food court that rivals any large shopping mall’s but with a distinct difference — an emphasis on healthy eating. Employees can pay for their food with a thumbprint at menu kiosks.
The new buildings include a health center for associates where Cerner puts into practice its software in a paperless clinic and uses employee health experiences as a laboratory to develop their products. One feature includes a “motion lab” where people can move in front of a green screen. A computer tracks their movements to help see problems.
Patterson, who has been dealing with a serious health issue, did not attend the ribbon-cutting, but co-founder Cliff Illig said Patterson has been actively participating in board meetings and strategic planning for the company.
The company provided tours of the new towers, which feature multiple working and break spaces. Respite spots include paneled libraries and a game room. The tower also features two large gathering spaces with big screens for meetings and in-house announcements.
“We’re constantly pushing the boundaries of health care,” Nill said. “Cerner is sitting at a very good place at a very good time. We expect to grow. We’re planning to grow.”
The mayor said Cerner’s growth helps the metro area in that “we’re talking about jobs … and the best social program in the world is a job.”
Cerner executive Zane Burke said the new buildings are part of Cerner’s effort to attract the best and brightest workers because “we’re only as good as what’s in people’s heads. … That’s the reason for this building — to attract and keep the best minds.”
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