Institute hopes ideas blossom

By Karen Colbenson

Post-Bulletin, Austin MN

The Hormel Institute will continue to boost its community and regional appeal through two activities scheduled to take place this spring: a landscaping project featuring the work of Spruce Up Austin and an opening reception for a bio-business conference hosted by the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation.

SMIF will host an opening reception May 21 at the cancer-research facility for its "Growing Bio in Southern Minnesota" conference, which will be held May 22 at the Holiday Inn in Austin, said Gail Dennison, director of public relations for the institute.

More than 150 people involved in biobusinesses from around the state will attend the two-day conference; the institute hopes to attract them to the resources offered in southern Minnesota, said Dennison.


SMIF, an Owatonna-based non-profit, provides loans, equity capital, business consulting, technical assistance and community partnerships to strengthen biobusiness growth in southern Minnesota.

In September, SMIF awarded a $10,000 grant to Biobusiness Alliance of Minnesota to develop the BioBusiness Resource Network in southern Minnesota, with which the institute is involved.

"SMIF has really honored the institute, and our plans for the future tie into one of (its) goals," said Dennison.

Landscaping around the institute also will begin this spring, with many volunteers eager to lend a hand.

According to Craig Jones, building coordinator, 11 trees and about 200 types of plants will be planted on the southern and eastern sides of the building. Ginkgo trees will be planted near the front parking lot.

Berg’s Nursery in Austin was given the bid for the project. The total cost for the project is not yet known, as it is still in planning stages.

Randy Berg, who owns Berg’s Nursery, said colorful but hardy, low-maintenance plants will be used, including a variety of shrubs and perennials.

A unique aspect of the project, according to Berg, will be an outdoor "meditation area," which will be surrounded by blooming flowers and plants. A plaza-like area will be constructed near the visitor’s entrance and will be filled with seats and planters, offering a "tranquil setting" for institute employees and visitors.


Spruce Up Austin is donating $2,000 toward the landscaping project, as well as the time of about 35 volunteers, who will use their talents to help beautify the currently dirt-covered grounds.

The project is slated to begin in late May or early June.

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