Archived Story

Our Opinion: Spam Museum talks should have been public

Published 9:51am Thursday, June 5, 2014

Like many in our community, we applaud Hormel Foods Corp., Vision 2020, the city of Austin and the various organizations involved in moving the Spam Museum to downtown Austin. It’s a smart move that will draw more foot traffic to downtown businesses, an economic win for our area.

Yet we have one problem with the project: Why was it such a secret?

Business owners, Hormel employees and community leaders were all talking about this for months, but most Austin residents only found out about it when the Herald broke the news the Spam Museum would move downtown two days before a planned announcement. Even then, everyone the Herald spoke to couldn’t officially confirm the relocation, despite the fact that dozens of Austin’s most influential residents knew about it.

The move is great for Austin, but Austin residents should have heard more about Vision 2020’s proposal to Hormel Foods far before now. Vision 2020’s Destination Downtown Committee had asked Hormel representatives to move the museum downtown last fall, as part of a larger plan to attract more business downtown.

We support Vision 2020’s mission, but we’re disappointed to see Vision 2020 volunteers are once again part of a larger effort to not communicate big changes to the area. We are unsure why Vision 2020 representatives didn’t publicize this several months ago, especially since one of its 10 committees was formed in 2012 with a plan to move the Spam Museum inside the Austin Utilities downtown plant.

Community leaders and organizations need to take this lesson to heart: Communication with the public is key whenever a big project is planned. And the more transparent organizations are, the better those ideas will be received.

We saw what happened last month when a group of residents proposed a “talent-packed” logo. People almost immediately took exception to the idea and the process behind it, and the logo was scrapped. There’s no reason why the Spam Museum move should fail, but then again, there’s no reason why it should have been a secret in the first place.

Transparency is best, and it’s especially important whenever our city faces large changes. Whether corporate communications policies should apply to city issues is a separate issue in this case. Whatever the reason, people should have known about the Spam Museum move a whole lot sooner, and business owners, Hormel employees and community leaders shouldn’t have kept quiet on such positive news.

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