Officials discuss timeline to start $27M Institute project next summer

Published 10:59 am Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Hormel Institute has announced it hopes to break ground on its expansion next July. --Herald file photo

The Hormel Institute has announced it hopes to break ground on its expansion next July. –Herald file photo

Hormel Institute officials have a ground breaking date for the cancer research facility’s $27-million expansion.

If all goes well, construction workers could break ground on the addition as early as next July, according to Jon Erichson, the Austin Port Authority’s project manager for the expansion.

“A lot of things need to happen over the next 12 months in order for that to happen,” Erichson told the port authority during its quarterly meeting Wednesday.

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Erichson was hired by the port authority in May, as the port authority technically owns the expansion building.

Though the expansion has been a long time coming — state legislators approved $13.5 million for the project in 2012 — the project likely will get underway quickly now. Erichson told the port authority he plans to propose a project architect by September while the expansion’s steering committee gets underway.

Institute and city officials have worked on the project for several years, only to see it delayed this year.

The Hormel Foundation, through Learning Tree LLC, began buying properties east of the Institute for the expansion as early as September 2010, while city officials and the Institute planned to seek state dollars for the project in 2011.

State legislators secured half of the $27 million project in a 2012 bonding bill after the Hormel Foundation pledged to match state funding. The foundation announced last month it would donate $23 million to expansion efforts, with $9.5 million of that going to recruit scientists for the 20 or so new labs to come with the addition.

“This is the kind of investment that Jay Hormel envisioned when he created the Foundation,” Gary Ray, The Hormel Foundation chairman, said in a press release last month. “The Institute is engaged in world-class, cutting-edge research into cancer prevention and treatment that benefits all of us.”

Foundation officials said a fundraising campaign will also be launched this fall to raise another $3 million for cancer research.

Institute officials hope to wrap up the expansion — which will likely double the facility’s size and add about 120 employees — by 2015.