There will be no tumbleweeds blowing around an empty Sprint World Headquarters Campus in Overland Park if a merger with T-Mobile goes through.
The new entity, simply named T-Mobile, would control the development. T-Mobile could keep the campus active, even if some space were leased out to others. But what is to become of the 6,000 employees who work at the current Sprint headquarters?
Sprint claims the 200-acre campus with 17 buildings would become a second headquarters, about equal to T-Mobile’s headquarters in Seattle. A true second headquarters would employ a high-level, highly-compensated staff. A corporate headquarters, by definition, is “a place where a company’s executive management and key managerial and support staff are located.” A senior Sprint spokesman told me he does not agree with that definition, but he did not offer his own. Why would T-Mobile need two headquarters? Only giants like Amazon need that.
The future of the current 6,000 Sprint employees in Overland Park is up in the air. As the Sprint official told me, some employees will be vital to keep in Overland Park. Some employees are performing duplicate jobs already covered in Seattle and thus would find their positions eliminated. And some will be given the opportunity to relocate to Seattle. Those decisions will be made later by T-Mobile.
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In this $146 billion merger, Sprint and T-Mobile have announced that once combined, they would reduce costs by $40 billion over three years. At the same time, Sprint officials also promise the net number of employees after the merger will grow, not shrink. Which job areas would expand and which would contract, and where the employees would be located, are decisions not yet made.
If the merger occurs, at least local taxpayers are safe. T-Mobile would be on the hook for property taxes, just as Sprint is. That comes to about $12 million in property taxes per year. The 50 percent tax abatement over 10 years that helped lure Sprint to Overland Park in 1998 has long since expired.
Already, a number of companies occupy some of the Sprint buildings, which became available in recent years as the number of Sprint employees shrank by more than half. There are approximately 2,000 such non-Sprint employees already working there.
The Sprint world headquarters, which opened in 1997, was a coup beyond coups for Overland Park. It was a game changer in almost every way. Economists in Johnson County say the local economic impact of Sprint on the community during the past two decades has been so immense, it is nearly incalculable
At its peak, Sprint employed more than 14,000 well-paid executives and high-quality, well-compensated staff. Sprint’s consolidation to the Overland Park campus from 50 buildings throughout the metropolitan area, triggered tremendous growth throughout southern Johnson County. And not to be understated, the intangible status of being home to the world headquarters of a major American new-technology company put Overland Park and Johnson County on the map.
If and when Sprint merges with T-Mobile, we will have every right to mourn the loss of our once crown jewel. Although now floundering, Sprint, even at half its peak size, was still the hometown pride. This community will never be T-Mobile’s hometown. And its impact will never approach Sprint’s in its heyday. But T-Mobile still can find an important place for itself here, and we certainly welcome it.