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NEWS ANALYSIS:

Thinking About Safety

by Fred Cederholm

With all the negatives in the news, it is a real pleasure to write about a successful American company that makes quality products for its customers in a safe, supportive, and appreciative environment for its work force.

I’ve been thinking about safety. Actually I’ve been thinking about Rochelle Foods Division, Quality Appreciation Day, products, tours, food, inflatables, BINGO, and Hormel.

Last Saturday the Rochelle Foods Division of Hormel Corporation staged their recent biannual Quality Appreciation Day for their employees, employees’ family members and invited guests. It was quite an event here in this part of Illinois; an estimated 3,000 people participated in the festivities.

You see, not only is Rochelle Foods the city’s largest employer—with over 860 employees, it is also the largest employer in all of Ogle County. This year’s event was particularly special. It marked the thirteenth consecutive year that Rochelle Foods received the company’s safety award for a year’s production without an accident or employee mishap. This is the longest-running safety record in all of the company’s divisions. It was especially fitting that this most recent event also marked fifteen years to the day when Hormel came to Rochelle—on July 12, 1993. Safety, quality, and value are clearly important hallmarks for Hormel.

The Rochelle plant processes and packages deli hams, hot dogs, pre-cooked bacon, sliced bacon, microwavable bacon, and “completes.” The “completes” are vacuum-sealed, single-portion entrees which require no refrigeration and have a shelf life of two years. They are really delicious and are ready to eat after just 90 seconds in your microwave. They could also be prepared in a conventional oven, or “double boiled” on a camp stove. They make a perfect item to stockpile in your pantry for emergencies. "Completes" are currently Hormel’s fastest-growing (and fastest-selling) product line. On two production lines and over two shifts per day, Rochelle Foods generates just over 2 million units of them per week. (They are also produced at Hormel Division sites in Minnesota and Georgia.)

Upon entering the main gateson July 12, employees and their guests were treated to a complete tour of the facility. This was not only impressive, it was highly informative. Production was shut down for the event and section supervisors were available throughout to explain the operations and answer all questions. To say the facility was immaculate was an understatement. Everything was as spotless as one would expect from a first-class operation that produces/packages some of America’s most trusted brands of food products. I should also note that as the visitors began their tour, they passed a large display case featuring the many awards, certificates, and trophies won by the plant and its employees. The Rochelle Foods team takes the greatest pride and care in their work, and it shows.

After the tour, all guests were treated to a real feast. There were hot dogs (made by Hormel of course), bratwursts from Hormel’s Saag’s Sausage Division in California, BBQed ribs from Hormel’s Lloyd’s Barbeque Division in Minnesota, potato salad, baked beans, fruit salad, cookies, and brownies.

The next phase of the event involved the inflatable amusements and pony rides for the children. The kids had a great time scaling this, bouncing on that, crawling over whatever, and sliding down from the summits. There was a jousting unit for those so inclined. The energy, exuberance, and laughter were contagious. Ah... to be that young again—and that flexible. Nearby, there was a “dunk management” tank where participants had the opportunity to soak their bosses.

This was the fourth time David Roinas had the Creston Booster Club furnish the equipment and “person power” for the three-plus hours of free BINGO for prizes. These included small kitchen appliances, power tools, electronic games, gift cards, and pre-paid gasoline cards.

With all the negatives in the news, it is a real pleasure to write about a successful American company that makes quality products for its customers in a safe, supportive, and appreciative environment for its work force. As a long-time fan of Hormel products, I particularly enjoy two grilled SPAM slices on a hot dog bun with raw onion and a mustard, molasses, and brown sugar glaze. (BTW: In two weeks, Rochelle Foods begins production of SPAM hot dogs!!!)

I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.


Copyright 2008 Questions, Inc. All rights reserved. Fred Cederholm is a CPA/CFE, a forensic accountant, and writer. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois (B.A., M.A. and M.A.S.). He can be reached at asklet@rochelle.net.

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This story was published on JuLY 15, 2008.