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23 posts from June 2012

June 29, 2012

IBM to give raises to India employees, but while holding back in U.S.

Here's a kind of interesting follow-up to the IBM news that Big Blue will not give raises to most its Global Technology Services (and possibly other units) employees.

A memo did go out about the lack of raises, though an IBM media person answered a question about it by saying raises would still be given to people with "High Demand Skills."
The Times of India (a very good newspaper that I often read) says that IBM will give its workers in India raises. That adds up to this equation - India = high demand skills.
Here's some from an article by Shilpa Phadnis & Sujit John:
IBM is likely to give a salary increment to its employees in India next month.

Ibm-india_mediumEarly on Thursday, international media reported about a mail that IBM had sent to employees, saying those in the Global Technology Services (GTS) division would not receive a salary increment this year. However, the mail also said people "who have high-demand skills" would receive an increment .

Sources within IBM India indicated that "high-demand skills" refers, among others, to employees in India . The sources said that the performance assessment exercise had been completed and increments were expected across the organization in India next month. IBM follows a July-June cycle. "For the best performers, the increment may be in double digits ," one source said.

IBM does not break up its headcount by geography, but it is estimated that the company employs over 1.3 lakh people (130,000) in India. The company has been an aggressive hirer in India for several years. With several Indian IT companies …  announcing salary increments  earlier this year, it may be difficult for IBM not to follow suit.

Rochester gains new weight loss center

A new option for people looking to lose weight will soon launch in Rochester.

Look for a Medifast Weight Loss Center to open its doors on July 16 at 2048 Superior Drive N.W., next to Home Federal Savings Bank, says Emily Gausman.

The Medifast program focuses on healthy eating and one-on-one counseling.

Owner Minnesota Weight Control Inc. already has six Medifast centers in the Twin Cities and one in Eau Claire, Wis.

So why oMedifastpen one in Rochester?

"It was just a natural progression from the Cities," says Gausman, of Cuneo Advertising, which represents Minnesota Weight Control.

Expect six to eight people to work in the 2,500-square-foot center, she says. Plenty of staff and room is needed to provide clients with one-on-one counseling.

This is the weight loss place that my esteemed colleague, The Answer Man, wrote about in May in response to a reader's question.

He was first to track this project, and he beat me to the punch with the first bad pun about it.

"Some dieters can hardly weight," he wrote.

I'd say that was on the same scale as a Kiger joke.

What's bobbin' with Red Robin?

People are always asking me when their favorite fast food chain, like White Castle or Sonic, is coming to town.

One name that has come up regularly in the past few years is Red Robin Gourmet Burgers. So when a little bird told me that a deal to build a new Red Robin in Rochester was cooking, my heart was all a flutter.

Then my hopes for news about a new hamburger chain crash landed after talking to the Castle Rock, Colo.-based company.

6a00d83451cc8269e20147e2983b91970b-800wi"While we are always looking at potential areas for growth and continually receive requests from our loyal guests across the country to bring a Red Robin to their area, we do not currently have any Red Robin restaurants planned in the Rochester-area," stated Peter MacKellar in an email. "For those Rochester residents craving their gourmet burger fix, the closest Red Robin restaurant is located in Apple Valley."

I have to admit, I still have a good feeling about my fine-feathered source.

It is possible that something is in the works, but it just has not hatched yet.

Either way, it looks like Red Robin fans will need to migrate north for a while longer.

June 28, 2012

Downtown construction of apts. and co-op rolls on

06282012rochmarketplace1Following the demolition of one of the University Village Inn buildings, the Metropolitan Market Place construction crews are working in a big, now-open space at First Avenue and Sixth Street Southwest.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the First Avenue block, work on the Metropolitan Market Place plunges ahead.

The La Crosse, Wis.-based Gerrard Corp. is building the four-story apartment complex with the new People’s Food Cooperative grocery store on the main level.

06282012rochmarketplace2It will have 62 apartments will all of the dust settles.

To encourage economic development, the City of Rochester sold the former Minnesota Energy building at 519 First Ave. S.W. to Gerrard for the symbolic price of $1, also on March 30.

The city hopes to recoup its investment in the property through a tax increment financing district set up for the project. The city bought the building in 2008 for $750,000.

June 27, 2012

IBM - No raises in 2012 for most of Global Tech. Services

Big Blue sent out an employee e-mail to its massive Global Technology Services unit this week saying don't expect any raises in 2012, particularly if you are an exec.

Ibm-logoGTS has a big presence in Rochester, which just announced creating five of the top ten world's fastest computers. Business Insider reported on this and then Computerworld followed up on it.

Any local IBMers have comments on this? Is it accurate? How big of a deal is this, if at all?

 Here's the email that Business Insider released:

GTS Employees,

The Employee Salary Program takes into account a number of elements, including compensation competitiveness in markets we serve, our ability to attract and retain people with skills we need, our business performance, and other employee investments.

It is essential for a services business to provide value-added services to clients at competitive price points.  Our objective is to ensure a competitive labor cost structure while moving aggressively into areas that are strategic to our clients and require innovative solutions.  This is fundamental to driving clear return on investments for our clients and to increase opportunities for all IBMers.

To balance our ability to remain competitive with the need to invest in people who have high-demand skills, there will not be a broad-based salary program in GTS in 2012.  Instead, we will target the 2012 investment to skill groups or focus areas as identified by each GTS line of business, based on local market needs.  These decisions do not affect the significant investments IBM makes each year in talent in addition to salary, including bonus programs, recognition, promotions, and skill development.

Your manager or leadership team will communicate additional information to you over the next few weeks.

Bob Zapfel
General Manager, Global Technology Services, North America                  

Richard A. Patterson
General Manager, GTS SO Delivery - Americas

Here's some from Computerworld's story on this:

IBM this year won't be awarding pay raises to its executives or to many of its workers.

The company said it is only giving pay raises to workers with high-demand skills that the company needs.

IBM typically awards raises during the mid-year period.

Ibm-logo"There are targeted skill groups of employees that are eligible for salary increases in 2012," said Trink Guarino, an IBM spokeswoman. "No executives will be eligible for salary increases."

Business Insider Tuesday published an internal IBM memo announcing the action that was sent to employees from from Global Technology Services executives.

One IBM employee, who didn't want to be identified, said he believes the lack of pay raises "is part of IBM's hyper-aggressive plan to meet its 2015 roadmap."

That IBM roadmap lays out an aggressive growth strategy, which calls for increasing the company's earnings per share by $20 by 2015.

The employee noted that the company has been spending billions in stock buybacks, but says it can't afford pay increases.

And obviously, IBM continues to cut large numbers of jobs, including many in Rochester. It ominously refuses to release any numbers citing competitive reasons, despite the fact that many of its competitors do release numbers like that.



June 26, 2012

Plans for Roadhouse moving through Rochester chutes

Here's a quick update on the Texas Roadhouse coming to Rochester:

Building plans for the new Texas Roadhouse restaurant have started wandering through official channels like a cow looking for the sweetest patch of grass in the pasture.

The plan calls for a 6,995-square-foot restaurant to be built in the parking lot of Rochester's Northwest Plaza shopping center along 55th Street Northwest. Neon-texas-roadhouse

That's the center that's anchored by Walmart North and Sam's Club. This project first rode into Rochester in February when the Rochester Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously branded the project as "OK."

Now that the plans are trotting through the city's official chutes, it is possible construction could begin before school starts again. I'll ride herd on this to see what other details I can round up.

June 22, 2012

The geometry of collaboration — 'Cubists' bring co-working to Rochester

They may be square, but the Cubists coming to downtown Rochester are on the level.

Think of it as your office away from home with a new angle.

06222012thecube1jkA group of business people are shaping up a new co-working space called The Cube, which describes the blockiness of their small building at 717 South Broadway. That's behind the Rochester Area Family Y parking lot.

Spearheaded by David Hewitt of Mama Meg's Frozen Novelties, the details of this project were hammered out by a collection of 15-20 local entrepreneurs.

So what is co-working?

"Coworking is the social gathering of a group of people, who are still working independently, but who share values, and who are interested in the synergy that can happen from working with talented people in the same space," said Hewitt.
In Rochester's Cube is a 360-square-foot office space where members, who all own and run small creative businesses, can get out of their home offices or coffee shop booths and work next to similarly minded people.

It is designed to encourage collaboration and creativity.

The "Cubists" signed up to work there, at least part-time, are Erik Giberti of AF-Design, freelance designer/marketer Sarah Miller, Nate Nordstrom of BrandHoot, Beth Ebnet of Trio Marketing and Events, Bucky Beeman of Snappy Stop and Hewitt.

The space can accommodate about eight people, along with a conference room seating for five. Very few members will be working there every day, so that allows for a larger pool of members.

It features a business broadband network, wireless printing with scanner, copier, a white-board wall, member-only events, coffee and Mama Meg's ice cream sandwiches.

"This has been a dream of mine for some time. It is really quite exciting," says Giberti, who has trying to bring the idea of co-working to Rochester for three or four years. "The time just wasn't right until now."

For the online application developer who has worked out of his Rochester home for the past years, being part of The Cube means he'll have a place to go on occasion to work and brainstorm with other creative people.

And when Giberti needs focused, "heads-down" work time, he still has his home office.

Why do this instead of just leasing a small office or a cubicle somewhere?

"What is really interesting in the co-working model is the creative and interaction that you have by not having those boundaries," he says.

June 20, 2012

Rochester snack company spices things up

Rochester's healthy snack company, Reichel Foods, is spicing things up with a new fresh pineapple with seasoning from south of the border.

2134President and CEO Craig Reichel says the new product — Dippin’ Stix Pineapple Bites & Tajin Seasoning — was a challenge to develop, but it is unique and has a targeted appeal for Hispanic customers.

Fresh pineapple squares come in 3.3-ounce, single-serve packages. Packets of fruit seasoning made the Mexico-based Tajin Seasonings company are enclosed, to be sprinkled on the pineapple.

Tajin Clasico is a mix of red chile peppers with lime and salt.

So how did a Minnesota firm known for its grab-and-go products like Carrots & Ranch Dip and Sliced Apples & Caramel end up creating a spicy pineapple snack?

"Our research and development team is always working with new and healthy flavor combinations," says Reichel. "Tajin makes the most popular spices in Mexico…usually used on fruit. And the Hispanic community eats a tremendous amount of fresh fruit."

The Pineapple Bites started rolling out Reichel's processing facility along Bandel Road Northwest more than a month ago and the early signs are that the product could be a hit.

"Sales are going well. It is already in Walmarts in some areas with a large Hispanic population," he says. "We're pleased so far."

While you will probably not find it on local shelves at Walmart or other retailers right now, that could change as Tajin's popularity continues to grow in the U.S.

"We developed the pineapple-and-Tajin combination primarily focused at the Hispanic demographic, although we’re finding it has a broader reach than that," he says

Making a fresh fruit product with a shelf life similar to its current lines proved to be challenging, but the real bite is when Reichel does a taste test. He says he has traditional Norwegian taste buds that aren't all that adventurous.

"I always have a glass of water handy when I eat it," Reichel admits.

Change coming for Bell Tower/ Alpine Inn

A group of older hotel and residential properties on Second Street has a change on the way.

Just what kind of change is hard to say, but it looks like the long anticipated redevelopment of the cluster that includes the Bell Tower Inn and the Alpine Inn could be in the works.

5g2f57pigcom2h1126200782853The six properties that cover half of the block on Second Street between 12th and 13th avenues were scheduled for a foreclosure sale last week.

But a day before the sale, a law firm representing the bank that owns the mortgage canceled the proceedings.

The Murnane Brandt law firm in St. Paul declined to comment about why it put the brakes on the foreclosure at the last minute. And the Halverson and Blaiser Group, which was appointed by the Boundary Waters Bank as a receiver to manage the property management firm, is not returning calls.

One clue signaling that perhaps the property has been sold is that Leines Hotel Advisors, of Eden Prairie, recently pulled the real-estate ad from its Web site that previously listed the properties available for sale at a price of $4.3 million.

On May 31, Leines' president said the listing had generated "a great deal of interest" and that the property is a "prime site for an additional hotel."

June 19, 2012

Roch. auction house handles liquidation of vodka co.

Instead of buying a just bottle of vodka to make cocktails, how about buying a whole vodka company — tanks, patented distillation process, bottle design, trademarked brand plus everything else?

001That's exactly what is on the block this week as Shakers Vodka, the "ultra-premium" vodka made in Minnesota from wheat grown here, is being auctioned off.

And a Rochester firm, Maas Cos., is the steady hand running the online auction to sell everything related to Shakers Vodka.

It is a true "liquidation" sale.

The story starts back in 2003, when Shakers launched and soon became kind of a rock star that had the bar crowd buzzing. Its smooth taste and frosted Martini shaker-shaped bottles really shook things up.

It was a creation from the same the guys who brewed up Pete's Wicked Ale, the popular brown ale from the early days of the craft beer revolution. They sold that off in 1998 and moved on to Minnesota vodka.

This time the bar stool fairy tale didn't have a happy ending. (Technically, Pete's Wicked Ale didn't end well either, since its owner stopped making it last year due to low sales.)

002In January, Blaine-based Infinite Spirits Inc. filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. That where Rochester's Maas Cos. comes into the tale.

Maas is known as an auction house that can handle out-of-the-ordinary industrial liquidation and real estate sales. The company has sold the assets of manufacturers, university campuses, ethanol plants and more.

The sky's the limit of what the company will auction off. The Rochester auction house even sold off a squadron of vintage biplanes that Minnesota's Schwan Food Corp. owned and flew in air shows to promote its Red Baron Pizza.

The word is that it was Maas' experience with selling ethanol plants, which aren't that much different from alcohol distilleries, that may have helped clinch the bid for this gig.

This auction is up and accepting bids for individual items — like a 16,000-gallon stainless steel tank — at

The game will change on Thursday, when the high-rollers are expected to belly up to the bar and lay down their bids to buy the whole kit and ka-bottle.

Bidding is scheduled to end at noon on June 26. That's when Maas will run the numbers to see which method brought the best price — the one-price-for-it-all bids or the sum of all of the bids for the individual items.

If the tally of all of the individual bids tops the biggest "for everything" bid, the big bidder will get a chance to match it. They will need to be $10,000 more than the collective bidders to win and put Shakers on their shelf.