COMPENSATION

Graco shares one-time gain with employees

Graco’s employees and the Graco Foundation benefited from last year’s Federal Trade Commission-ordered sale of the liquid finishing businesses Graco purchased from Illinois Tool Works in April 2012.

After Graco announced the deal the FTC ordered the Minneapolis-based company to operate the businesses separately while it examined the deal.

In October 2014, the FTC gave Graco a 180-day deadline to sell most of those businesses. The following April Graco sold the liquid finishing businesses to the Carlisle Co. Graco realized $141 million in after-tax investment income from the deal. On March 9, Graco CEO Patrick McHale told employees that they would get a share of that one-time gain.

Graco put $7 million of those proceeds into the Graco Foundation. The foundation matches employee donations to eligible programs or contributes as much as $1,000 to organizations where Graco employees donate time. Graco Foundation also supports scholarship and tutoring programs and the Metro Paint-A-Thon.

Graco also distributed $5 million in bonuses to its 3,200 employees. Employees eligible for corporate bonuses received larger awards because the sale proceeds increased the corporate earnings per share target. Those not eligible for bonuses received $650 if they were a full-time or $325 if part-time employees.

Workers started receiving bonuses in their March paychecks.

Patrick Kennedy

ENERGY

Steady isobutanol production in by Gevo Inc.

Gevo Inc. said it is ramping up continuous production of a high-value alcohol called isobutanol at its plant in Luverne, Minn., after a recently completed $5 million upgrade. Until now, the converted ethanol plant has produced isobutanol in batches, and distilled it elsewhere. The upgrade, which added a distillation system, allows continuous processing on site.

Chief Executive Pat Gruber told analysts Wednesday that the plant should produce 750,000 to 1 million gallons of isobutanol in 2016 at a cost of $3 to $3.50 per gallon. He said most of it will be sold to blend with gasoline for boats and off-road vehicles. Gevo also aims for jet fuel and other markets.

The company, based in Englewood, Colo., also is licensing its technology. Gruber said that Porta Hermanos in Argentina plans to retrofit one ethanol plant with Gevo’s isobutanol technology in 2017 and later convert three more ethanol plants. Gevo is the nation’s first commercial producer of corn-based isobutanol, a chemical cousin to ethanol. Its main plant in Luverne still produces ethanol too, Gruber said.

The company still isn’t profitable, however. For the fourth quarter, it reported a loss of $1.7 million compared with a $1.4 million loss in the period a year ago.

David Shaffer

FOOD COMPANIES

Hormel continues to simplify ingredients

Hormel’s canned chili is being parsed of artificial ingredients, or even ingredients that sound artificial.

It’s part of Austin-based Hormel’s effort to simplify its ingredient base, echoing campaigns across the packaged food industry. Consumers are increasingly rejecting artificial flavors and colors, looking for labels free of chemically sounding names.

Over the past 18 months or so, Hormel has taken a harder look at artificial ingredients, said Kevin Myers, Hormel’s senior vice president of research and development. “We’ve opened it up to look across the board.”

The retooling of some product lines has already been completed, including Hormel’s Compleats line of microwaveable meals. For instance, the company substituted vegetable oil and spices to get the same moistness and texture previously imparted by stuff like “microcrystalline cellulose” and “hydrolyzed vegetable protein.”

Neither of those former Compleats ingredients is artificial, but they are highly processed, and many food manufacturers are trying to eliminate ingredients that don’t seem natural. “Just the name doesn’t resonate with consumers,” Myers said.

Hormel’s signature chili is a current project for the ingredient reformulation team. Among other things, Hormel is removing caramel color and MSG, replacing them with additional tomatoes and spices to retain the same color and flavor.

In addition to substituting ingredients, Hormel has been using a pressurization process in sliced meat products to replace such preservatives as sodium lactate and sodium diacetate. Essentially, 80,000 pounds of water pressure applied after the product is packaged kills potentially harmful microorganisms.

Mike Hughlett

Hendrickson Forum

Former U.S. ambassador to China will speak at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

Jon Huntsman Jr., the Obama administration’s former U.S. ambassador to China will address “Global Leadership: Our Future with China” at the 2016 Hendrickson Forum April 20, at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. 3M CEO Inge Thulin also will be honored. Tickets, including lunch are $40. Registration is required at www.smumn.edu/HendricksonForum.