Hormel serves up first check

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 19, 2001

Hormel Foods gave the Austin School District the first of two $140,864.

Tuesday, June 19, 2001

Hormel Foods gave the Austin School District the first of two $140,864.43 checks Monday in a ceremony at district offices.

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This was the first installment of an arrangement worked out by Mower County assessor and Hormel in May.

The agreement calls for the land value of the nine-parcel Hormel plant to become gradually diminished from $36 million in 2001 to $16 million in 2003, while the Austin School District received an unusual direct payment of $281,728.84 from the company.

"If Hormel had not offered us this money," schools Superintendent James A. Hess said, "then we would have had to make additional cuts."

"Hormel could have said, ‘lets just pocket the money and add it to our bottom line, but they didn’t and showed what I consider to be a real corporate conscience," Hess said. "I’ve worked in places like Liberal, Kan., and their (local meat processors) idea of corporate conscience is throwing out a 50-pound box of meat once a year."

The devaluation negotiations began when Hormel realized that its property could be worth as little as $13.5 million.

After realizing this, Hormel officials approached the county with a requested devaluation, but both sides agreed that the cut in valuation might adversely effect the school district, so negotiators made sure that the school district was figured into the deal.

According to Julie Craven, Hormel’s public relations director, the gift reveals "the value (Hormel) places on the schools."

Hess said that the deal shows "Hormel Foods Corp.’s interest in the community and the school district."

Hess said the property devaluation at Hormel might increase the school’s need for money, but the impact on each taxpayer would be minimal, especially if "the proposals being debated in the House and Senate in St. Paul go through."

The money Hormel gave to the school district Monday will go directly to the general fund.

Craven also affirmed Hormel’s continuing five-year deal to donate $1 million for the Wescott Field improvement project.

Call Sam Garchik at 434-2233 or e-mail him at newsroom@austindailyherald.com.