Archived Story

Hormel Institute ready to bid out expansion; to start in May

Published 10:08am Thursday, April 24, 2014

By Trey Mewes, Austin Daily Herald

AUSTIN — The Hormel Institute is beginning to put out bids for its upcoming $27 million expansion, with a groundbreaking set for next month.

Institute expansion officials told the Austin Port Authority during its meeting Wednesday that construction firm McGough, which is overseeing the expansion, has recommended institute officials set qualifications for bidders on the project.

Those qualifications include a good safety rating, background information on employee and business criminal history, financials and similar projects over the past 10 years, and a list of key personnel among other things.

“We expect the majority of people, the high, high majority of people, to pass,” said project manager Jon Erichson.

The qualifications come as institute officials get ready for a May 28 grand groundbreaking on a 63,000-square-foot addition to the east side of its current building, where the east parking lot currently is, as part of a three-story expansion to add 20 labs.

The groundbreaking signals the beginning of the expansion, which will start with a new parking lot to the southeast so employees can have somewhere to park during construction.

Institute officials have had to pause bids for that project for now as state officials said money approved under a 2012 bonding bill couldn’t be used for parking lot construction under the bill’s current language. Erichson said state Rep. Jeanne Poppe and state Sen. Dan Sparks, both DFL-Austin, were working to amend that language to free up that bonding money for use on the parking lot.

Construction is set to begin this summer after two years of planning and securing funding by Hormel Institute and Austin Port Authority officials. In December, the port authority approved RSP Architects of Minneapolis to design the expansion.

Erichson said the project will have about 20 to 25 construction projects to bid out under the expansion. The expansion is set to wrap up around July 2015.

Institute and city officials have worked on the project for several years. The Hormel Foundation, through Learning Tree, began buying properties east of the Hormel 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 will donate $23 million to expansion efforts, with $9.5 million of that going to recruit scientists for the new labs to come with the addition.

“It’s always good to have a critical mass of people working on research,” said Craig Jones, building coordinator for the Hormel Institute.

A fundraising campaign to raise $3 million is also in the works.