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17 posts from February 2012

February 28, 2012

Unoffical tally of Big Blue's Black Monday layoff still climbing

Here's some my piece on IBM's layoffs in today's paper. However, I am still interested in talking to Rochester area people who were caught in this round of job cuts. I'd like to put as much of a human face on this this as possible.


Industry watchers estimate that IBM may have slashed hundreds of jobs from its payrolls Monday, including many in Rochester and nearly 1,100 nationwide, according to one source.

130110ibmwalljan10jkSpeculation by some IBM insiders estimated as many as 160 Rochester area employees may have lost their jobs. However, the company would not comment on any job cuts here or elsewhere.

Reports of layoffs started as soon as IBM's offices opened at 9 a.m. Monday. By mid-morning today, the pro-union Alliance@IBM group had tallied an unofficial total of 1,098 jobs cut nationally.


One laid-off IBM employee told the Post-Bulletin that his manager stated that none of the laid-off workers would leave the company before the end of March and none would stay beyond the end of June.

Local IBMers confirmed anonymously that the some Rochester jobs were cut, but none hazarded to estimate how many.

A Rochester man who had worked for IBM for more than 20 years was among those notified. Layoff materials he received show that that 58 people were laid off from the same department, though not all in Rochester. Of the 58, 54 were older than 40.

Roch.-made computer to move heaven and earth

Here's some from a tidbit (or maybe tidbyte) about Rochester's Hardcore Computer going to school.

A unique Rochester-made machine that looks a little like a glowing fish tank is moving heaven and earth to launch the imaginations of local students to places they've never gone before.

Reactor - Side.Front ShotTo bring the stars to earth, the Mayo High School Planetarium is diving in with Hardcore Computer’s Detonator Professional Workstation. It uses Total Liquid Submersion technology to keep it cool and to boost its performance to hyperdrive-like speeds.

Planetarium director Lawrence Mascotti fired up the Detonator about a week ago and school staff soon learned that the computer's reputation for power is not an exaggeration.

They got a surprise while installing Uniview Theater, the complex simulation software that is used to teach astronomy, astrophysics and Earth-based science displayed inside the planetarium's dome.

They expected the huge program to take 22 hours to load onto the new computer. Hardcore's machine handled the task in 15 minutes. The Detonator's warp speed and stellar power is opening new worlds for the planetarium.

“Hardcore Computer helped us transform the current planetarium lab space into a new science center and visualization learning lab," says Mascotti. "As visual beings, the large display format that the Detonator supports has the potential to stir the imagination and communicate effectively and efficiently to students of all ages."

February 27, 2012

IBM layoffs under way, numbers rolling in

Shouts of "R.A." (Big Blue-speak for layoff or firing) are ringing through the halls of IBM sites across the country, including Rochester's campus.

Workers are posting on the Alliance@IBM union site about being cut after 10, 15 years or more on the job.

Here's one comment from a soon-to-be unemployed IBMer:

Comment 02/27/12: Just received RA at the Rochester MN site at 9:00 am....I am in shock but also a little happy to be out of the hell of "Big Blue" -Anonymous-

F19d5528-747f-4f66-b426-59f07edaaf53I'd love to hear from any area IBMers who were slashed during this round of cuts.To protect severance and possible work at IBM as full employer or contract worker with firm CTG, I am offering to keep such sources anonymous, if the person so desires.

The challenge here for a reporter is that IBM gave up  saying anything about employee numbers let alone cuts back in 2008/2009. Not that they were real chatty before that, but it possible to accurately track general trends.

Now the media can only speculate and work from information from emotional people who have just lost their jobs and/or groups with an agenda to organize a union at IBM.

Not sure how that benefits IBM, but I guess that is a moot point because the Big Blue Wall blocking the flow of official information is now more well established than the Berlin Wall ever was. It seems no numbers ever get over this wall.

Most official sites, like the City of Rochester and Rochester Economic Development, Inc. still list IBM as the second largest employer in this city. However, the last time IBM released any specific local numbers was at the end of 2008, when it reported that 4,200 people were employees in the Med City.

Do they still have more 4,000? Do they have more 3,500 or 3,000 workers in Rochester? I haven't been able to find a reliable to confirm such a number.

I'm uncomfortable listing it as the second highest employer, since there is no proof for that. However, that is generally the accepted belief.


Roch. church in final countdown to building project

Here's a little from my weekend piece about Trinity Presbyterian nearing the launch of a project to build a new church in N.E. Rochester.


A growing Rochester congregation that has been meeting in a school for the past two years could break ground on a new church complex as early as this spring.

TrinityMeetingHouseTrinity Presbyterian Church is finalizing plans to build the first phase of a new complex at the corner of Viola Road and Schaeffer Lane in northeast Rochester, near Century High School, says the Rev. Chris Harper.

"This gives us an opportunity of building something to TrinityPropertyLineenable us to accomplish the purposes we feel like we  have — to help the people that come to Trinity and help the community," he says. "We're hoping to be able break ground this spring, if possible."

However, the church hopes to first sell its existing buildings at 1300 10th Ave. N.E.

Trinity stopped holding services there two years ago and began meeting at Schaeffer Academy at 2700 Schaeffer Lane N.E. Those 10th Avenue buildings are being rented by two other local churches. There has been interest from potential buyers.


February 23, 2012

Rochester finally lassoes steakhouse chain

Here's a little from today's column. To read the whole enchilada, check out the print edition of the Post-Bulletin:

Cows (other than ones in nursery rhymes) aren't known for their jumping ability.
In a rare move Wednesday, a well-known steakhouse chain sailed quickly over the first hurdle in its run to build its first restaurant in Rochester.

After years of looking and tantalizing its herds of fans in southeastern Minnesota, Texas Roadhouse has finally staked a claim in Rochester.

41806_107989009247296_3542_nThe Med City's version of the Texas Rangers, the Rochester Planning and Zoning Commission, unanimously approved plans for a 6,995-square-foot freestanding building during a whirlwind six-minute meeting Wednesday.

The restaurant is slated to be built in the parking lot of Rochester's Northwest Plaza shopping center along 55th Street Northwest. The Glimcher Group Inc. owns the center, which is anchored by Walmart and Sam's Club.

February 22, 2012

RAEDI targets regenerative medicine biz

Here's some from my take on RAEDI's annual meeting yesterday. Lots of info. This is the kind of deal where I can only skim the surface for article.

The medical potential of a regenerative medicine cluster in Rochester dazzled local leaders with words like "magic" and "science fiction," but business growth and jobs were the bottom line at the annual meeting of Rochester Economic Development Inc. on Tuesday.

Mnbio137_2_0Representatives of three companies already in operation in Rochester — ReGen Theranostics, Mill Creek Life Sciences and Cardio3 — described how they're making strides toward treating heart disease and other illnesses by injecting cells that regrow damaged tissue.

Dr. Andre Terzic, the director for Mayo Clinic's new Center for Regenerative Medicine, said the way a person's skin heals from a cut is an example of how the body regenerates to heal itself.

But regenerative medicine aims to go beyond that to use the body's natural ability to repair and protect to create new treatments to combat a variety disease and medical conditions.

"These are very exciting times. This is no longer science fiction," he said. "This is no longer just on paper."

Several companies focused on regenerative medicine, many with aid from RAEDI and the City of Rochester, have already put down roots in the Minnesota BioBusiness Center in the past few years.

CARDIO3 BIOSCIENCES 1Cardio3 is a Belgium-based biotech company working on treating cardiac disease by using a patient's own stem cells to repair or regenerate the heart. Its treatment is based on the research of Dr. Terzic and Dr. Atta Behfar, both of Mayo Clinic. It has based its U.S. headquarters in Rochester.

Mill Creek Life Sciences is a Rochester company that manufactures a protein-enriched fluid to help grow stem cells and primary cells used in regenerative therapy. Cardio3 is a Mill Creek customer.

ReGen Theranostics is a Rochester firm that re-engineers human skin cell samples to create stem-cell lines to be used for medical research.

• Mayo Medical Ventures is a for-profit arm of Mayo Clinic that licenses its intellectual property to companies as well as launches its own businesses based on the research and technologies.

February 20, 2012

New recycling center + 2.5 million pounds of steel

Here's an example of real steel.

Remember the Rochester recycling center that expanded at the end of last year?

Get_photoDuring the first week of  January, Watson Recycling opened its new $3.5 million location on 81st Street Northeast near 11th Avenue.

I was talking to Jeremiah Watson, the CEO of Watson Recycling, today and he shared an interesting number.

Since it opened, the new site has taken in almost 2.5 million pound of steel. That's a lot of metal. It is particularly significant, because Watson had not accepted steel until then.

The current Watson on North Broadway location remains open and will stay so for at least a year.

At its North Broadway location, Watson buys aluminum, copper, stainless steel and other nonferrous metals. Then it resells the metal to mills.

Watson Recycling is a third generation family business. These days it is run by four brothers - Jeremiah, David, John and Tim Watson. They took it over from their dad, Glen Watson.

February 16, 2012

It's drive-in weather at Roscoe's Barbeque

A shout out of thanks to the PB's roving local news editor Mike "The D" Dougherty for snapping this pic yesterday as he snagged some lunch. Unfortunately, this pic is all he brought back.


It may be mid-February, but it's drive-in weather in Rochester.

Roscoe's Barbeque, Root Beer and Ribs on Fourth Street Southeast is now open for the season, with customers eating outside in Wednesday's 40-degree temperatures.

Mgtcgnwj-medium-1This is the earliest Steve and Barbara Ross have ever re-opened the seasonal drive-in location after spending the winter shuttered up. Usually, they don't fire up the drive-in until March or even April.

Their other location, Roscoe’s Express, remains open all year in the Chateau Center at North Broadway and 37th Street in northeast Rochester.

"Why not open the drive-in?" Barbara Ross asks rhetorically. "It has been so warm, we could have been open all winter."

It opened last year on March 24 with a mega-drift of snow in the parking lot that they dubbed "Mount Roscoe."

This week customers are sipping root beer floats where the snow mountain once stood.

February 15, 2012

Medical journal critical of proton beam therapy

Here's an interesting take on proton beam therapy that originated in the Archives of Internal Medicine journal.
This was spotlighted on Valentine's Day by Gary Schwitzer on the Health News Review blog. Health News Review is a non-profit group focused on keeping an eye on how health  news is reported in the media.
While Mayo Clinic's massive proton beam projects in Rochester and in Arizona were not mentioned, this does seem to follow the same lines of thinking from the New York Times editorial. It is worth noting that the NYT editorial was written by doctors whose medical centers already offer proton beam therapy.

It seems this technology, which is surprisingly constroversial, is becoming a competitive issue among hospitals and other "medical destination communities."

Here's some from Schwitzer's post on this topic:

A "research letter" in the Archives of Internal Medicine this week concludes:

“To our knowledge, we show for the first time that the availability of a technology, in this instance a proton beam facility, in one’s HRR (hospital referral region*) is associated with a higher likelihood of receiving proton beam therapy compared with those living in an HRR where this technology is not available.”

* The Dartmouth Atlas defines HRR this way: “Hospital service areas make clear the patterns of use of local hospitals. A significant proportion of care, however, is provided by referral hospitals that serve a larger region. Hospital referral regions were defined in this Atlas by documenting where patients were referred for major cardiovascular surgical procedures and for neurosurgery.

The authors write:

“The number of treatment options for localized prostate cancer continues to expand, amidst growing concern regarding overdiagnosis and overtreatment of low-risk disease.  Treatment patterns, however, may be driven by availability of novel Mayo Proton Center - Rochester Exterior 09.13.10technologies rather than by clinical indications.


No prostate cancer treatment has been proven superior to the others. There are, however, substantial differences in cost, which are becoming more important to society and are a focus of health care reform in the United States.While there are theoretical advantages to proton beam therapy from a radiation physics standpoint, no study yet has demonstrated its superiority to modern photon-based therapy in terms of either oncologic or quality of life outcomes…

Proton beam therapy has not been shown to be superior to other treatments for prostate cancer and is substantially more expensive.Caution should be taken when considering implementation of this technology in additional regions, which may lead to greater use of this technology.”

New 2nd St. Holiday Inn close to opening

Here's some from today's column about more hotel action on Second Street Southwest.

Special thanks to Josh Banks for the pic. I'm glad you are out there on the the street with your camera.


Construction crews are busy working on the final stages of Rochester's newest hotel as it gears up for its opening.

The tentative plan is to open the new Holiday Inn Express & Suites by the Miracle Mile shopping center by the end of March.

02142012holidayexpresson2ndThis 85-room hotel is the centerpiece of the Shoppes on Second development. That project, spearheaded by Rick Penz, of Rochester, includes the hotel and two commercial buildings. Tenants of the other buildings have not been announced, other than a Cousins Sub shop.

Lamont Cos. of South Dakota is building the hotel. They expect to have about 30 employees at the new hotel.

And this Holiday Inn is just the start for Lamont Cos. in Rochester.

"We'll be doing a full-service Holiday Inn shortly after this one,"  said Jeff Lamont, the owner of  Lamont Cos., last fall. The location for that one has not been announced.