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New plant looks 'green' all over

DUBUQUE, Iowa -— With all of its "green" or earth-friendly features, Hormel Foods Corp.'s new plant here is projected to use 25 percent less energy and water than if it had been built just to meet current building codes and industry standards.

Building the 348,000-square-foot Progressive Processing facility — created mainly to make Hormel Compleats shelf-stable, microwavable meals — also involved using materials with more than 36 percent recycled content and recycling more than 85 percent of the construction waste, according to the company.

Hormel's willingness to build a production facility — not a common occurrence for companies in the nation's ongoing recession —- in Dubuque wasn't the only thing lauded during Tuesday's grand-opening celebration by various dignitaries, including Iowa Gov. Chet Culver and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

They also gave high praise to the Austin-based food company for its efforts to make the facility energy efficient and environmentally friendly. Grassley said Hormel's environmental work with the Dubuque plant will be an "inspiration" to other companies.

Hormel officials are projecting that, in the first two years of operating the plant, the company will recoup the extra costs necessary for constructing the facility in an environmentally friendly way.


"Our goal is to set the food industry's gold standard for harmonizing the impact of operations with the environment, and we believe we have accomplished this with Progressive Processing," said Jeffrey Ettinger, Hormel's chief executive officer, president and board chairman.

Culver said he appreciates Ettinger's vision with the facility.

"What you are doing here is state-of-the-art," Culver said.

Chad Sayles, manager of mechanical and electrical engineering for Hormel's corporate engineering division, led the team that designed the water and energy savings features of the Dubuque plant.

Sayles, who personally designed the heat-recovery system used throughout the plant, also managed the process of applying for certification under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.

Hormel officials expect to get LEED Gold certification for the plant, making it one of the first manufacturing plants to be LEED certified at any level. It also would be the only refrigerated food processing facility to get that designation.

Going green earns 'green'

Hormel's green efforts, including the installation of about 200 skylights, didn't go unnoticed by Alliant Energy.


During Tuesday's ceremony, Alliant Energy presented Progressive Processing with a check for nearly $240,000 that Hormel earned in incentives for its proactive efforts to build energy efficiency into the Dubuque plant.

"It doesn't hurt when you go green to get a little green," Ettinger joked.

Energy efficiency was part of the design in many facets of the Progressive Processing plant, including insulation, windows, skylights, daylighting controls, occupancy sensors, water source heat pumps and variable speed drives.

Alliant officials estimate Progressive Processing's annual energy savings will be about 28 percent, or $143,000 less in electric bills each year.

The plant's second phase includes high-efficiency equipment and a production layout that will make the company eligible for additional rebates and greater annual energy savings at the facility, according to Alliant Energy.

Behind the scenes

After the ceremony, company officials, including plant manager Mark Zelle, led several groups on tours through the Progressive Processing plant, which was producing Hormel Compleats chicken and dumplings microwave meals.

Zelle also showed guests the process from start to finish of making Compleats meals, including the production line that fills and heat-seals the trays.


Officially opened Jan. 25, the Progressive Processing plant, Zelle said, has about 25 percent of the equipment it could host at full capacity. It's expected to grow from 90 to more than 200 employees by the end of the year.

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