Hormel hits record $9.3 billion in sales

Hormel’s sales increases were “fueled by… branded, value-added product portfolios.”

Hormel Foods Corp. announced a record $9.3 billion in sales in fiscal 2014, up 6 percent over the previous year, reports the Austin Daily Herald. President and CEO Jeffrey Ettinger said the company also notched a record $2.5 billion in sales for the fourth quarter. Net earnings were a record $602.7 million, up 15 percent from last year. The increases were “fueled by our branded, value-added product portfolios,” Ettinger said in a press release.

Lakes in northern Minnesota are freezing over nicely, but lakes are still dangerous in the rest of the state. Brad Phenow in the Faribault Daily News reports that there’s only a thin layer of ice on lakes in central and southern Minnesota. This severely affects ice fishing so the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources urges anglers to use extreme caution during this time of year. “A few days of cold temperatures don’t create ice strong enough to hold a person,” said Maj. Greg Salo, operations manager in the DNR Enforcement Division.

The Rochester Post Bulletin reports an increase in the number of students sick with influenza-like illnesses. Fifteen Rochester schools had above-normal absences from schools, and symptoms reported by parents matched those of influenza: high fever, cough and sore throat. Olmsted County Public Health advises “getting vaccinated against the flu (it takes about two weeks to build immunity after the vaccination), cover your cough, wash hands often and stay home from work or school if ill.”

The Wells City Council has suspended a city police officer for two weeks without pay following an investigation, reports Josh Moniz of the Mankato Free Press. Steve Seipp has been on paid administrative leave since Aug. 22 while he was the subject of an internal investigation. Wells officials have declined to provide details about the misconduct, including the specific city rules he broke. The city did say Seipp did not face a criminal investigation and that Seipp had no prior disciplinary incidents. Wells Police Chief Jim Ratelle said the investigation has been a strain on the department of four full-time officers and five part-time officers. “We all learned a valuable lesson in this process,” Ratelle said, although he too declined to provide any details on Seipp’s unspecified misconduct.

Newsweek has named Bemidji High School one of the top 500 best schools in the country for low-income students. Bethany Wesley of the Bemidji Pioneer writes that the school ranked No. 412 in Newsweek’s “Beating The Odds 2014 — Top Schools For Low-Income Students” in which the schools were selected based on scores for college enrollment, graduation rates, counselor-to-student ratios, test results and keyed it into the school’s poverty rate. Bemidji Area Schools Superintendent Jim Hess presented a plaque to recognize the school, its students and staff for their efforts.

Here are the Minnesota schools on Newsweek’s list with the rank and poverty rate: 17, Twin Cities Academy High School, 44.23 percent; 92, Face to Face Academy, 89.71 percent; 94, Woodbury Senior High, 14.46 percent; 106, Mound-Westonka High School, 22.26 percent; 144, Orono Senior High, 6.81 percent; 189, Southwest Senior High, 35.93 percent; Ubah Medical Academy Charter School, 88.64 percent; 199, Mounds View Senior High, 11.12 percent; 237, Wayzata High School, 15.72 percent; 336, Mahtomedi Senior High, 7.16 percent; 391, Central Senior High (St. Paul), 55.38 percent; 412, Bemidji Senior High, 40.42 percent; Luverne Senior High, 27.68 percent; 465, Rushford-Peterson Senior High, 36.84 percent; 495, West Central Area Secondary, 37.31 percent.

A task force says by 2024, Moorhead will need a new high school, a second middle school and another elementary school, writes Helmut Schmidt of the Fargo Forum. The Moorhead School District’s facilities master plan task force joined with the Cuningham Group out of Minneapolis to determine that the high school will be outdated by that time. Enrollment increases will require another middle school and elementary school. School Board member Matt Valan said the district’s growth is welcome but has a cost. “The good news is we’re bursting at the seams,” he said. “The bad news is we’re bursting at the seams.”

John Weiss of the Rochester Post Bulletin writes that the when the towboat Sheryl B. Reeves pushed six loaded barges through the Genoa, Wisconsin, Lock and Dam 8 at 3:40 p.m. Sunday, the commercial navigation season in this region ended. The end of the season is earlier than normal because a mid-November cold snap iced up the river. In fact, the Reeves was pushing so much ice in front of it that the Corps of Engineers operators had to move the ice through the lock before it was able to get the tow through, said lock operator William J. Nissalke. It was the earliest end to a season in 45 years, according to the Associated Press.

Brainerd has been having a problem with cats in its storm sewers, reports Jessie Perrine of the Brainerd Dispatch. Animal Control officer Don Hannahs said feral cats in the storm sewer system is pretty common. It’s warmer and safer for them there. The problem in Brainerd intensified when some residents heard meows in the drains and dropped cans of cat food to help the felines. That only draws in more cats, Hannahs said. City Engineer Jeff Hulsether said the cats don’t cause any harm to the system. “A lot of people are saying (the cats) are stuck or stranded,” Hulsether said. “That doesn’t appear to be the case. They just don’t want to leave.”

Duluth is crowing that it has the cheapest gas in the state. The Monday price of about $2.49 per gallon of unleaded regular, according to minnesotagasprices.com, is nearly 40 cents per gallon cheaper than last year at this time. In fact, this is the cheapest gas has been at Thanksgiving since 2009. The statewide average Monday was $2.68 per gallon and $2.80 across the U.S. The News Tribune noted that this year, a 350-mile round trip to the Twin Cities will cost about $6 less than in 2013 if your vehicle gets 25 mpg. The cause of the lower prices is a bigger surplus of domestic oil coupled with Americans who are driving fewer miles in cars that have better gas mileage.

Albert Lea school leaders wanted to know what teachers thought about changing the school calendar, so they whipped up an anonymous, online survey and sent it to the faculty. Unfortunately, they received 317 responses from the district’s 279 licensed teachers, invalidating the results. Tim Engstrom reports that Superintendent Mike Funk suspected some teachers voted from multiple computers, or the link to the survey was spread to non-teachers. In fact, the newspaper found links to the survey posted on Facebook. For the record, the survey showed 139 in favor of the plan to adjust the calendar and 178 against. In June, a survey found 123 supported it, 36 opposed and 74 neutral, Engstrom wrote.

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