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27 posts from October 2012

October 27, 2012

New Chamber chair want to create entrepreneurial center

I realize it is kind of late now, a few days after the event. However, here's my piece on the annual Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce bash on Thursday. Scott Heck electricfied the room with his speech an incoming board chair.

The pic is of Heck and the chamber's omnipresent membership director Judy Braatz, who is also featured in this month's Rochester Magazine's Single in the City issue.


His voice cracking with emotion, Scott Heck told the crowd at Thursday's annual Rochester Area Chamber Celebration about his wife's experience of being laid off and her struggles to launch her own business.

Heck recalled her calling him in 2002 to say she had been laid off. While he was apprehensive, she was excited.

Get_photo"She said, 'I don't know what I'm going to do, but I want it to be fun. Whatever I do, I want it to be my passion,'" he said.

In the end, she decided to open a floral business specializing in design with a European flair. Even though he was a leader in his RBC Wealth Management office, Heck says he didn't know where to point her for help to start a new business.

However, Pat Heck worked it out and launched Le Jardin. One of her first gigs was providing flowers for the chamber's 2002 annual meeting. Still choking with emotion, he said that this year's event marked her final night with Le Jardin. After creating a successful small business, she has sold it to one of her employees.

"Everything thing Pat (Heck) did, she did herself. She did it on her own," said Heck, pausing to gain control over his tears. "Wouldn't it be cool if there was one place for people like her to go to get their questions answered?"

As the incoming chamber board chairman, he is proposing creating just such a place. Calling his concept an entrepreneurial center, he described it to the hundreds of local business leaders.

"It'll be a place for one-stop shopping to come for the advice you need to start your own business," Heck said. "Let's get this figured out. That's my deal as this year's chair."

He pointed out that the chamber has more than 700 members that are businesses with four or less employees. An entrepreneurial center is way for the chamber to better serve those members.

"This chamber's all about you. Everything is about making life better," Heck said.

Heck's speech followed the annual presentation of business awards.

• Business of the Year: Sontes. Owner Tessa Leung, who opened the popular restaurant and wine bar at the corner of Historic Third and South Broadway in 2006, accepted the award,

• Chamber Volunteer of the Year: Mark Schleusner of Mayo Clinic won the award for his work with the chamber's STEM education initiative.

• The Lamp of Knowledge award: The annual award for outstanding work with education was presented to Rochester Community and Technical College President Don Supalla.

• Chamber Ambassador of the Year award: Following a long list of his activities and accomplishments with the chamber's Ambassador program, the award went to Ken MacIver of Greenway Cooperative.

More details out on Destination Medical project

Here's some from a piece I wrote following up the Destination Medical Community initiative, its request for $20 million in sales tax funds and more on developer that is consulting on the project:


Even before voters consider a sales tax extension that includes $20 million for Destination Medical Community, Mayo Clinic is driving the project forward by paying consultants to help create a plan for the initiative.

The campaign by city leaders and Mayo Clinic aims to enhance the overall experiences of people visiting Rochester for medical treatment.

"DMC is an overall strategy being developed to support the goal of providing the ideal patient, companion, visitor and community member experience," says a statement submitted by the committee in charge of DMC.

Dmc logoIt began as a vision many years ago. When the call went out for community projects that could be funded by an extension of Rochester's half-cent, local-option sales tax, a DMC committee was formed with Mayo Clinic representatives and local leaders. A funding request for the project was submitted asking for $20 million of the estimated $139.5 million that an extension of the sales tax could raise.

The chamber, Rochester Economic Development Inc., the Rochester Downtown Alliance and the Rochester Visitors and Convention Bureau are all involved in the campaign. Mayo Clinic, however, is spearheading the planning.

Mayo Clinic has since hired in-house staff to address the Destination Medical project. The clinic's public relations staff currently handles all communication about DMC.

On Nov. 6, voters will decide on the sales tax extension. Proponents of the extension describe the sales tax as an economic investment that will improve the community. The $20 million for Destination Medical is framed as making Rochester more attractive as a place for Mayo Clinic to spend more of the $700 million it plans to spend annually on capital projects at all of its campuses over the next five years.

Earlier this month, Mayo confirmed that Hammes Co., a top health care consulting firm that's based in Madison, Wis., had been hired to work on the DMC project. Now the committee has released more details.

Hammes Company was hired as a planning consultant two years ago through a competitive bid process by the DMC committee. However, no money from the sales tax extension will be used to pay Hammes for its work.

"Mayo Clinic is paying for all consultants for DMC and will not seek sales tax dollars for Mayo expenses. The city will pay for any consultants it determines it needs," according to a statement from the committee.

The committee doesn't expect to have any detailed plans on how to spend the money prior to the election.

October 24, 2012

Could Roch. schools have another building on shopping list?

Shopping-cartIf all of the chatter I've been hearing is accurate, Rochester Public Schools is not done buying big commercial buildings this fall.

The school district bought the almost empty Rochester Market Square complex earlier this month for $2.1 million, but another purchase could be in the works.

It sounds like the schools could be wrapping up yet another Rochester real estate deal very soon. I plan to do my homework, so we should find out soon if another deal is on the Rochester Schools' lesson plan.

October 23, 2012

S.E. Minn.'s corn harvest comes in early, piled high

Forecasts about how good the corn harvest would be in parts of southeastern Minnesota have turned out to be wrong.

It is a lot better than anyone dared to predict.

In contrast to the rest of the drought-blasted Midwest, the area's rain-favored fields are bursting with a cornucopia of corn.

10232012cornharvest"I believe this is one of the largest harvests ever, if not the largest, for this area," said Tim Clemens, Greenway Cooperative's general manager. Greenway runs grain elevators  in Byron, Kasson, Dodge Center and West Concord. That puts Greenway's elevators right in the middle of the local corn boom.

With about 95 percent of this year's unusually early harvest completed, farmers are bringing in an average of 170 bushels per acre, with prices running more than $7 a bushel.

Ryan Buck, vice president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, farms more than 1,000 acres on a family farm in Goodhue County. He said he has already wrapped up the corn harvest, about three weeks earlier than last year. Last year's crop was "very good," but this year's harvest far exceeds it.

"Much of southeastern Minnesota is kind of a Garden of Eden," Buck said. "The quality of the corn this year is the best I've ever seen."

Clemens said all of Greenway's 5 million bushels of storage, plus more stored in related facilities, is full of grain. That's despite recently adding 1.1 million more bushels in storage.

Greenway has about a quarter million bushels on the ground outside storage bins, he said. Storing outside costs farmers and the cooperative money by lowering the value of the corn. That's not a big deal when corn is selling for $3 a bushel, but it's significant at this season's high prices.

He said the corn harvest is running 10 percent to 15 percent better than even the most optimistic forecasts. That's following a bumper crop of soybeans, which filled more grain bins than expected.

Another twist to this historic harvest is that it is happening so early. Harvests often extend into late November, but this harvest is expected to be mostly done by the end of this month.

"Everyone was kind of caught with their pants down with this harvest," Clemens said. "It is exploding. It is coming in faster than ever before."

While local grain elevators are bursting at the seams, this is an oasis amid a desert of drought-stunted fields across the Midwest. The drought is driving up prices, and grain rationing is being discussed by U.S. agriculture officials. Some livestock and dairy producers are selling off animals because they can't afford to feed them. Some ethanol plants are halting production.

"It certainly hasn't been all roses for everyone," Buck said. "This was kind of a fluke year. That's kind of the beauty of farming. No two harvests are ever the same."

That means that area farmers are in the unheard-of position of having more grain than usual just as prices are running high. Still, that doesn't add up to winning the lottery, because farmers' costs for seed, fertilizer, fuel and most everything else are also higher this year.

Much of this year's corn probably won't be sold for the sky-high prices. Farmers often contract early in the year to sell their future grain at a certain price. That means that despite the high prices, a lot of the bounty from this area could be sold for $5 to $6 a bushel.

However, there is no question that it is much better to be bringing in a record harvest than scraping together grain from drought-blighted farms, like the majority of U.S. grain farmers are doing.

As the harvest rolls to its end, the push is shifting toward figuring out how to ship all of this high-dollar corn out to buyers.

October 22, 2012

A clinic in Rochester a dream come true for dentist

Had this one last week. Just learned that Rochester's CRW Architecture + Design Group is handling this project.

The plan for the facility includes space for 4 treatment rooms, 2 hygiene rooms, an x-ray area and related staff and support areas, according to CRW's Facebook page. CRW also says that this project is on a fast track schedule intended to be open for business by January 2013.


Dr. Karen Buttar is all smiles as she talks about her new dental clinic being built in the Med City's fastest growing commercial area.

"I've always dreamed of this. It was time to step up," she says. "Here, I'll be able to do all I ever dreamed of."

The almost 3,000-square-foot Dental Care Clinic is under construction along 19th Street Northwest next to the Highlands Business Park. Buttar hopes it will be completed in December, so she can open before the start of 2013.

68371_479447068752950_765566309_n-1The clinic is directly across the road from the new facility being built for Paws & Claws next to the Rochester Athletic Club. The dental clinic is going up on the spot originally pegged for Paws & Claws before it migrated across 19th Street.

Buttar, who has practiced dentistry in Rochester for years, most recently leased space in the Minnesota Lakes Dental Clinic in the Shoppes on Maine development.

Her plan is to offer a full range of general dentistry services with some extra emphasis on cosmetic services and care for children.

"I love to treat kids," she says.

Having her own clinic will give Buttar the flexibility to take extra time with each patient.

"There will be no rushing. I like to have a relationship with each patient," she says.

In addition to having more control over her time, the new clinic will allow Buttar to take advantage of the latest technology. For example, she is outfitting it with an X-ray imaging machine that uses 90 percent less radiation than traditional ones.

Why did she decide to build along 19th Street Northwest?

The new CostCo store, Kwik Trip station and Lourdes High School all being built nearby signal the explosive growth in that part of Rochester, Buttar points out. She also likes being near the Rochester Athletic Club.

"And it is much more centrally located than I have been in the past," she says.

Buttar expects to have three or four people on staff when she opens up the clinic.

In the end, she said the whole project is about the patients. She remembers how overwhelmed with emotion one woman was after Buttar closed up the spacing between her teeth with less than two hours of treatment.

"At the end of the day, you feel like you did something worthwhile," she says. "I love it."

Old building gets facelift for spa biz

UPDATE - The print version of this piece was wrong on one point. Essence Skin Clinic is not moving. The Oddfellows space will be used to house a new sister business to be called Essence Med Spa.

I apologize for the error.



A high-profile downtown spot is getting a facelift as it prepares to put its best face forward for a new tenant.

622123_10151126017021359_2024214389_oWork is under way at 23 Second St. S.W. for an extensive remodel to freshen up the space for Essence Med Spa. That is a spin-off from Essence Skin Clinic, which is based at 400 S. Broadway in the Riverside Building.

Owner Jennifer Sanneman  began the business in 1998. Essence offers services like permanent cosmetics, laser hair removal, chemical peels, tattoo removal, Botox and other skin-related treatments.

I should have more details on this project soon.

That space in the 131-year-old former Odd Fellows building at Second Street and First Avenue Southwest was last occupied by Think Mutual Bank. Think moved to the Minnesota Biobusiness Center building in July 2011.

Essence will share the Odd Fellows building with Eagle Drug Store, Newt's Express and HDR Architecture.

Baheya LLC of Rochester bought the building last year for $5.3 million from 23 Second Street SW LLC.

October 19, 2012

Mayo Clinic responds to children's hospital buzz

Mayo Clinic has three hospitals in Rochester - Methodist, Saint Marys and Mayo Eugenio Litta Children’s Hospital.

However, visitors usually count just two hospitals in Rochester. That's the Mayo Eugenio Litta is within Saint Marys. Mayo does have a children's hospital, but it is not easy to point out without its own building.

Eugenio-litta-2colThat's line of thinking that seems to drive waves of speculation that Mayo Clinic might one day want build a separate children's medical complex in Rochester. Rumors surface every couple years or so that just such a project is in the works among the internal teams within Mayo Clinic's elaborate and detailed long-term planning processes.

So recently the "Mayo Clinic is building a children's hospital in Rochester" rumor surfaced yet again. On face of it, it seems like a reasonable possibility.

Well, Mayo Clinic has now decisively resolved any discussion of such a project. I asked a Mayo communications expert about it. Here's the response directly from the source:

"I did some searching and there are no plans for Mayo Clinic to build a separate children's hospital."

There you go. No separate children's hospital will be built in Rochester.

That should resolve that… until talk pops up again a year or two from now. Heh.

Clothes Mentor hopes to start selling soon

The Med City's latest women's used clothing shop is stocking up for its upcoming opening.
Look for Clothes Mentor to start selling gently used clothing, designer handbags and other items at its new Rochester store at 3851 Marketplace Drive N.W. on Nov. 15, says owner Stacey Kollasch.

That date puts the store in that retail sweet spot on the calendar that is after the presidential election, but before Thanksgiving. The store is open now. However, it is just buying clothes for now. Sales will begin on Nov. 15.
"We've been getting a lot of good things coming in the door. We've a ton of designer purses," says Kollasch.

Clothes Mentor pays cash on the spot for used women's clothing. It focuses on clothing that's two years old or less and then it re-sells for about a third of what it was priced when new.

Some eager shoppers are already preparing for the opening sales day by pinpointing where exactly their favorite pieces are located in the store to map their plan of "attack."

While many racks and shelves in the 3,500-square-foot space are full of clothes, Kollasch and store manager Rachel Prickett say they would still like to beef up their stock in these weeks before starting to sell.

"The more we have, the better," she says.

The store, which is near Target North where Erik's Bike Shop used to be located, should be more easy to spot soon. Kollasch hopes that the large Clothes Mentor sign will go up over the door yet this week.

October 18, 2012

Calif. tech firm pulls plug on Med City facility

A California tech firm recently pulled out of Rochester, after having an development lab here since 2006.

PMC-Sierra, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based semiconductor maker, recently closed down its more than 8,500-square-foot facility at 3555 Ninth St. N.W. It moved into that space in 2010 and had about 20 employees working there at that time.

10162012pmcsierraIt is not know exactly when the Med City location closed up shop or even exactly why it closed. PMC-Sierra responded to questions with a brief statement attributed to Ron May, director of corporate marketing communications.

"The PMC Rochester facility opened in 2006 and our Adaptec acquisition in 2010 facilitated ending the project for which the site was originally opened; relocation assistance to our Colorado Springs facility or severance and job search assistance was offered to all remaining engineering employees."

It is unclear how the $34 million purchase of the "channel storage" division of a company like Adaptec impacted the Rochester site. PMC-Sierra spent at least $250,000 in November 2010 to build out the Ninth Street facility. It acquired Adaptec seven months prior to that.

Prior to the 2010 move, PMC-Sierra's Med City location had previously been based at 3605 U.S. 52 North in what used to be called the IBM White Buildings.

When asked what was driving its expansion in Rochester two years ago, PMC-Sierra released this statement:

 "... A large pool of experienced and talented individuals who have the technical expertise to work on PMC’s semiconductor solutions."

It is worth noting that PMC-Sierra was collaborating with IBM at that time  on "a multi-core, multi-threaded RAID solution" at that time. The resulting maxRAID device was used in Big Blue's new System x EXA servers.

While many details are not known, it is clear that PMC-Sierra has followed in the footsteps of other technology firms like JDS Uniphase and Celestica. It has definitely pulled the plug on its presence in Rochester.

October 17, 2012

Real wrecking ball + faux log cabin

It really isn't a Rochester landmark per say, but I'd guess most people who drive North Broadway regularly know what building I mean when I say "That fake log cabin by Silver Lake."

If you don't knowLogcabin it, there no reason to become to familiar with it at this point. That's because it is not long for this world.

A demolition permit has been filed for "…the cabin being used as an office" at 1214 N. Broadway. For an estimated $8,000 in demolition costs, it is being scraped away to add three more parking spaces.

There was an Allstate Insurance based there, but they're not there now.

It certainly isn't an ear of corn tower or the pig on Cheap Charlie's, but it is colorful piece of faux Med City landscape that's going away soon.