DUBUQUE, IOWA – Hormel Foods Corporation is hosting the grand opening of Progressive Processing LLC, its new shelf-stable microwaveable meal production facility in Dubuque, Iowa, on March 30. A wholly owned subsidiary of Hormel Foods, Progressive Processing is the first new production facility the company has built in more than 25 years.

The 348,000 square-foot facility comes with an $89 million price tag. The plant opened on Jan. 25, 2010, when it produced its first run of Hormel Compleats microwave meals.

The plant was built according to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (L.E.E.D.) Green Building Rating System, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council for environmentally sustainable construction. Hormel Foods has applied for L.E.E.D. certification and expects confirmation in the coming months. Progressive Processing is expected to be one of the first manufacturing plants — and the only refrigerated food-processing facility — to be L.E.E.D. certified at any level.

The plant’s green design allows it to use 25% less energy and water than a plant built to meet current building codes and industry standards and was constructed using materials with more than 36% recycled content. Hormel officials say it will recoup the cost for designing in the “green” features by 2012.

“Progressive Processing is a result of our continued growth, and it incorporates some of the latest technology available for manufacturing,” said Jeffrey M. Ettinger, Hormel’s chairman of the board, president and chief executive. “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.”

Progressive Processing currently employs approximately 90 people. The company could employ up to 300 people when the facility reaches maximum capacity. More employees will be hired based on business needs and as additional production lines are added. The plant is currently running one line of Hormel Compleats microwave meals.

Progressive Processing, which is one of four plants that produce Hormel Compleats microwave meals, currently produces four of the most popular varieties: Spaghetti, Chicken & Dumplings, Chicken & Noodles and Lasagna. The plant has the potential to produce all varieties of Hormel Compleats meals and CHI-CHI’S Fiesta Plates microwave meals.

Mark Zelle, plant manager, who began his career at Hormel Foods 30 years ago at Hormel’s Beloit, Wis. plant, initially in the lab and then in quality control, heads up the Dubuque plant. During his career, he transferred to the Stockton, Calif. plant in 1982 as the quality control manager until 1991, when he returned to the Beloit plant to serve as the quality-control manager and later as superintendent of operations. He returned to the Stockton plant as plant manager, and served there for two years before moving to Dubuque to lead Progressive Processing.