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DFL chair touts Institute project

State DFL Party chair Ken Martin told officials from the city of Austin and The Hormel Institute Thursday that the proposed Institute expansion is one of the key projects in the state bonding bill.

“We believe this expansion of The Hormel Institute is one of the key priorities that needs to be funded,” Martin said. “This is borrowing responsibly to invest in key jobs … and infrastructure.”

Although the Republican majority has indicated it wants a smaller bonding bill compared to Gov. Mark Dayton’s $775 million proposal, city officials are hopeful the project will be included.

“We’re really pleased that it’s going well and we can’t wait to get started on the project,” said Port Authority Director Jim Hurm. “We also, early on, had the support of Sen. (Dave) Senjem, which will be really key.”

Senjem, the Senate Majority Leader from Rochester, has publicly expressed support for the project in recent months. Martin said he is hopeful the project will receive Senjem’s continued support.

Gail Dennison, director of public relations for the Institute, said she is optimistic about the $13.5 million bonding bill request being approved because there’s nothing bipartisan about cancer research.

“The Hormel Institute is a bipartisan point of occupation for all of us,” she said Thursday. “Cancer does not have any boundaries.”

The expansion would create 125 new, high-paying jobs. Along with that, there would be opportunity for up to 15 new section leaders. According to Dennison, each section leader brings with him or her at least $1 million in federal grant funding. The grants are specific as to what they can be used for, Dennison said, but all the money will be used to fund research.

Dennison said the community has been wonderful in rallying behind the project, and area legislators have been helpful in lobbying at the capitol.

“We have an incredible team of people and our community,” Dennison said. “It’s one of the best examples of everyone being behind one project.”