Target CEO Steinhafel helped nix eating disorder clinic

By Jon Collins
Friday, August 06, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Gregg Steinhafel's image from Target's 'Here for Good' site, which promotes corporate responsibility, Source: Target Corporation

Earlier this year, an eating disorder clinic called the Emily Program was attempting to open a new facility in an affluent part of Orono, a town of 7,500 people west of Minneapolis. But opposition from some neighbors, as well as the influence of Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel — who has drawn national criticism for orchestrating political contributions that go to Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer — helped kill the facility.

It was supposed to be a ten-bed treatment facility in a former private school. Initially, the program enjoyed the support of many city officials, including the mayor.

Dirk Miller, the executive director of  Emily’s Program, told the Star Tribune (in some fantastic journalism by Heron Marquez Estrada) that he was shocked at Steinhafel’s stance, partly because Steinhafel attended an early informational meeting about the project and told program workers: “You people are doing God’s work.”

Despite the earlier public statements and his service on foundation boards that operate centers for troubled youth in other neighborhoods, Steinhafel quickly changed his tune. Steinhafel spoke against the program at community hearings, wrote a letter to city officials and hired a lawyer from the politically connected  firm Faegre and Benson, who put pressure on the city and mayor to reject the organization’s permit.

Steinhafel, in comments at a Feb. 22 City Council meeting, said, “We strongly believe that Emily’s Program has no place at the Hill School location.”

In a separate letter to city officials, Steinhafel and his wife, Denise, said the school site is too small and that a zoning change could have longer-range implications, including opening the door to other medical facilities at the site or in the area. They said they are not opposed to the Emily Program. They wrote that they have a close friend who suffers from an eating disorder and acknowledged “the help programs like this offer.”

Other opponents, such as former supporter Orono Mayor Jim White, claimed that permitting the program would open the way for “a rehab center for drug or sex offenders –from moving into the school site if the Emily Program closed or left.” White asked the program to withdraw the application.

In mid-March, Emily’s Program abandoned the effort. The former school, owned by former Republican Party chairman and TCF CEO Bill Cooper, was to remain vacant. Cooper told the Star Tribune that he was “disappointed by the council and the community’s reaction,” and that it was a “not-in-my-neighborhood” sort of thing.

Follow Jon Collins on Twitter



Brix Smith
Comment posted August 6, 2010 @ 2:22 pm

This guy is a grade A creep.

Comment posted August 6, 2010 @ 7:40 pm

Wow, some of his best freinds are bl….have eating disorders.

Its funny, I just started shopping at Target after many years of my own personal boycott after reading that they were charging more for diapers and baby formula in one of their inner city stores. I think it was on Lake near I 35. Not much there I can’t find somewhere else.

Comment posted August 7, 2010 @ 2:46 pm

He should be ashamed of himself. Seriously, afraid that it could open the door for a rehab fro drug or sex offenders?! Yea, better just leave them helpless in the public.

Comment posted August 7, 2010 @ 8:27 pm

I applaud MN Independent for throwing more light on this corporation and some of the interesting characters that operate at its top.

I’m finished shopping there myself. Why would I want my hard earned cash being funneled into support for right-wing politics?

And to hear that some of Target’s executives–what a sorry lot they must be–donate to the embarrassing Michele Bachmann…I suppose one observation is that extraordinary smallness of mind is no barrier to high level employment in a large corporation. Then again, this will hardly come as news to many.

Comment posted August 8, 2010 @ 6:15 pm

I am sickened to hear this. As a successful patient of the Emily Program, it is dispicable to prevent them from continuing to change the lives of men and women suffering from the brutal effects of eating disorders. Without the Emily Program, I would be dead today, instead, I am a UW-Madison grad working at a kick-a** job and making the choice every day to choose freedom over my disorder. Thank you Em. Program, even if Target and a bunch of others don’t have a clue what you actually do for people like me. Yesterday officially marked the last time I shopped at Target.

Navy Vet
Comment posted August 11, 2010 @ 2:41 pm

Good job Target! You’ve picked a CEO that is effectively alienating the shopping public one issue at a time . . . might even drive some to the socially inept Walmart.

Comment posted September 16, 2010 @ 2:13 pm

Why am I not surprised??? First gays, and now those with any sort of disorder. As long as this guy represents Target I will not be spending my money there.

Comment posted September 16, 2010 @ 8:55 pm

Wow, what a great addition to all the other bs. I’ll be sure to share this with my friends and family.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.