AUSTIN EDITION 'What an asset,' state official says of Hormel Institute
By Tim Ruzek
A state economic development leader called The Hormel Institute a "hidden asset" after touring the world-renowned scientific research facility Tuesday in Austin.
Matt Kramer, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, visited the institute as a guest of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation.
"I was not up to date on this curious mixture of food science applied to research applied to clinical trials," Kramer said after the tour, "and what an asset for Minnesota to have that."
DEED is the state's main economic development agency with programs promoting business recruitment, expansion and retention; work force development; international trade; community development; and tourism.
Kramer and the foundation's Regional Economic Development Group met earlier Tuesday at Austin Country Club to discuss the emerging bioscience industry's role in southern Minnesota's future.
Foundation members presented strategic plans that included having better connections within the bioscience field and providing business development tools, capital and venture funding resources to the region, according to the group's news release.
Trixie Ann Goldberg, president of the foundation, called Hormel Institute one of southern Minnesota's "bioscience successes."
Hormel Institute is an independent research branch of the University of Minnesota, with 75 employees.
Clint Calvert, spokesman for the institute, told Kramer and others that the institute has created 25 jobs in the past three years. "Things are moving rapidly here at the Institute."
The institute asked the foundation to help it establish the process for commercializing its scientific research and for distinguishing its brand.
"They see the potential that is here," Calvert said.
Earlier this year, institute officials proposed plans for a possible $3 million, 10,250-square-foot expansion of its research department at 8011 Sixth Ave. N.E.
In the past two to three years, the institute has grown with its cancer-prevention programs and outside funding, such as grants.
Dr. Zigang Dong, professor and executive director of the institute, who didn't attend Tuesday's meeting, has helped bring international scientists to Austin.
The institute's staff includes some of the world's "cutting-edge cancer researchers," Calvert said. The institute also has exclusive access to hundreds of natural compounds through an agreement with a Russian university and has collaborations allowing it to test compounds and move them forward, he said.
"We think we have an engine for natural-compound testing here in southern Minnesota," Calvert said.
Institute officials expect more rapid growth in the next two to five years with additional research programs to study the causes of cancer and develop new basic strategies for its prevention, treatment and cure.