Expanding into reality; Institute expansion on schedule, to wrap up by 2016

Published 10:20 am Friday, March 6, 2015

A crane hoists building materials to The Hormel Institute Expansion Thursday afternoon. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

A crane hoists building materials to The Hormel Institute Expansion Thursday afternoon. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

The Hormel Institute’s expansion project is on schedule and ready to wrap up construction at the end of the year.

Workers put up outside walls Wednesday and Thursday, a big step toward finishing the 74,000-square-foot expansion.

“It’s very exciting for all of us to see it moving along,” Gail Dennison, director of development and public relations for the Institute, said. “We all feel very fortunate to work in such a beautiful place and to have the support of the community that wants to provide outstanding facilities for their important work.”

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The $28.5 million project will add 20 labs and about 120 new employees to the Institute once it’s complete. Institute leaders secured $13.5 million in state bonding funds in 2012 and matched that with contributions from the Hormel Foundation, which further donated $9.5 million for technology and recruiting efforts as the Institute finishes this expansion.

While the project is well under way, another component of the expansion is set to begin later this spring. The Institute’s new Live Learning Center is set to start construction in April or May, depending on weather conditions.

The center will have a 250-seat auditorium with theater-style seating. That includes up-to-date communication technology will be installed for better broadcasting and online conferencing.

Dr. Dong

Dr. Dong

With the new technology, researchers in the auditorium will be able to participate in presentations and discussions with other scientists from anywhere around the world. The Hormel Institute’s researchers have many collaborations throughout the United States as well as with scientists in numerous other countries.

The space will also include a larger multipurpose room, which Institute scientists will use when they begin to host several international research conferences over the next few years. Institute officials say an international symposium is planned to coincide with the expansion’s 2016 grand opening.

“We hope support of the Live Learning Center will be generous,” Zigang Dong, executive director of the Institute, said in an email. “This is a vitally needed space for our growing number of faculty to gather in one place within The Hormel Institute, where knowledge/cancer research will be presented and shared worldwide. It truly is of importance to everyone because it helps us accelerate cancer research discoveries.”

The center will cost $4.5 million to build, all of which comes outside of state bonding funding secured in 2012. Institute officials have raised $2.2 million thus far and are mounting a fundraising campaign to secure more funding, including a community drive.

Dennison said residents can call the Institute at 507-436-9604 for more information on how to donate to the center.

While the expansion’s construction should end on time in December, interior finishes should continue into 2016.