Let the expansion planning begin

Published 9:47 am Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Local leaders and lawmakers pose east of The Hormel Institute where the cancer research facility’s expansion will be built. Pictured from left are Dr. Ann Bode, associate director of The Hormel Institute; Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, Jerry McCarthy, chair of the Austin Port Authority, Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, and Gary Ray, chair of The Hormel Foundation. -- Adam Harringa/adam.harringa@austindailyherald.com

Rep. Jeanne Poppe said she wore a Hormel Institute scarf every day for a week while state lawmakers were deciding on the fate of the bonding bill, which included money for The Institute’s expansion. When the bill finally passed, giving The Institute $13.5 million, Poppe said she needed a new scarf.

Local leaders gathered outside The Institute Tuesday to thank Poppe, DFL-Austin, and Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, who introduced bills in the House and Senate for the bonding request.

Poppe and other legislators worried during the last few weeks of the session that they wouldn’t pass a bonding bill this year. But when the smoke cleared and Dayton signed the bill Friday, the final version gave The Institute the full $13.5 million it wanted for its $27-million expansion.

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“Quickly it became the hallmark project for the area and the state,” Poppe said, wearing an Institute scarf she borrowed. “We’re very thankful to be able to bring the project home.”

With the funds secured, officials with the city of Austin have the planning process underway for the Austin Port Authority and expansion. The Port Authority, the city’s economic-development entity, requested the $13.5 million and will build, own and manage The Institute’s expansion.

Several months of planning are ahead for the project, with the groundbreaking on the east side of The Hormel Institute happening in spring 2013, according to Jerry McCarthy, chair of the Port Authority. Construction will begin in 2013.

“We’re going to sit down and start working out an agreement with The Hormel Foundation on funding and they’re going to start doing some fundraising,” McCarthy said. “So we’ll start the planning process now. And optimistically I’d say early spring we start digging a hole out here.”

Plans for the expansion include adding 15 state-of-the-art laboratories on the Institute’s east side and better space for its growing International Center of Research Technology. About 120 jobs will be created over five years with the expansion that also will strengthen The Hormel Institute’s “BioScience Triangle” partnerships with the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic.

In 2008, The Institute celebrated an expansion and renovation project — fully paid for privately — that tripled its size and added space for doubling the number of jobs of research faculty and staff. Additional space now is needed because those labs created by the 2006-2008 project are full.

The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota-Mayo Clinic is a world-renowned cancer research center and leader in cancer preventative research. The BioScience Triangle growing the collaborative partnership between the three entities is continuing to expand.

“The Institute has always been known for making landmark discoveries, starting with Omega 3 and Omega 6 [fatty acids],” said Dr. Ann Bode, associate director of The Institute. “It will just continue to grow and hopefully this will be the start of a collaborative effort and more emphasis with Mayo Clinic.”

Hormel Foundation chair Gary Ray said they will work on creative ways to raise the money, while also working with Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota on the effort.

“I’m feeling really positive we can do it,” he said.