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14 posts categorized "Chamber action"

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.

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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:

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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.

August 14, 2012

Allegiant to offer nonstop flights to Ariz.

Allegiant is coming back to the Rochester International
Airport to offer flights west once again, but the destination is not a gamble this time.

Tailx-large[1]The regional airline and travel company will offer two weekly
non-stop flights with 166 seats each to Phoenix, Ariz.

Starting on Nov. 1., Allegiant flights will leave Rochester generally on Thursdays and Sundays to make the less than three hour trip to Arizona.

To help the new flights take off, the Las Vegas-based airline is offering the Arizona flights for $99 one way.

Allegiant had previously offered non-stop flights from Rochester to Las Vegas for more than two years until it pulled out in 2010 due to lack of demand.  During 2008, 27,854 passengers flew out of Rochester on Allegiant.

With Mayo Clinic having campuses in Arizona and Rochester as
well quite a bit of tourism traffic, Allegiant is not worried about demand this time, says Eric Fletcher, the airline’s airports manager.

“We’ve had good luck returning to markets that we’ve previously
pulled out of. We feel good about coming back to Rochester,” he says.

Could Allegiant bring back non-stop flights to Vegas or add
flights to its other major vacation destination of Orlando, Florida?

“That always a good possibility,” Fletcher says. “We like to
have more than just two flights w eek going out of an airport. But we believe
Phoenix is a good destination to start with right now.”

July 25, 2012

Remembering Hanson - Chamber Golf

Today is the annual Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce golf bash at Willow Creek Golf Course.

It is quite a bash, if you haven't been before. And it is an event that I always associate with Denny Hanson, who we recently lost.

For many years, I worked with Denny as a source and as a friend. We had a friendly running competition over who had the freshest bit of business news.

DennyatgolftourneyI miss those exchanges. Beyond politics, which I truly have no opinion about, I know he was someone I always enjoyed interviewing.

Many years ago, I even tracked him around the golf course during the tournament for a quote on a business issue that was very sensitive at the time. Eventually, I got a very honest and blunt quote from him. He caught a lot of heat over that quote, but it never stopped him from talking openly to me.

Denny was always a super nova of energy right in the middle of the action at the golf tournament, laughing and joking with everyone orbiting around him. And yes, for those who remember last year's infamous costume, he sometimes crossed the line of good taste.

Like us all, he had lapses in judgement, but he was a very good man who cared deeply for his family and for community. Denny worked tirelessly doing what he thought was best for this community.

Hanson had a fierce appetite for life, which he embraced with a Captain and diet in hand and jolly laugh.

In memory of Denny and his love for the chamber golf tournament, here's a video of him butchering the song, "I Can See Clearly" back in 2009.

Thanks for the memories, Denny.

 

April 12, 2012

Home Design Studio goes dark

While it has been for sale for a while, it looks like the once-red-hot Home DesgnStudio showroom building along West Circle Drive in Northwest Rochester is now completely cold and dark.

04112012homedesignstudio1Staff of the Studio plus Home Improvement Professionals and the Olmsted County Lumber Mart moved out on Friday and shifted their offices to the remaining space they have in Byron.

I'll have more details soon, but this move has gotten me remembering the golden days in the fall of 2006 when this massive, multi-level 32,000-square-foot showroom opened its doors and flipped on the hundreds of fancy light fixtures made the complex glow like a spaceship at night.

Homedesign studio August 15Pictures from Business After Hours and Builders events held there in 2006 and in 2007 during that time show a big shiny place bustling with smiling people. Most of the folks I can indentify have long Homedesignicesince made forced career changes, lost jobs, had businesses go under and have faced a variety of other difficulties.

That was also the same time that Rochester Market Square, another home construction mall, also opened on t Homedesignstudio2in2006he south side of the Med City. That has since retracted quite a bit and its developers finally sold it to an out-of-state corporation.

Homesdesignbah1in2006
It is quite simply a bygone era.
I realize how much better Rochester has fared than most during these turbulent times. However, it is my impression that most of the survivors from those days have a lot more scars today than they had then.

Moving beyond maudlin memories, I am wondering what kind of business might buy this cavernous place and what could it be used for. It is fantastic rambling showroom.

But not many businesses go that big anymore. Maybe a furniture store or an Aquarius-style dance club?

We'll see, I guess.

October 21, 2011

Roch. chamber bash 2011 wrapup - Priorities and awards

The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce's annual member celebration drew a big crowd Thursday as business leaders packed the Rochester International Event Center.

Outgoing Chamber board chair Melissa Brinkman of Custom Alarm handed over the reins of power to Alan De Keyrel of CWS.

Here's the story I scribbled out about the event.

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The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce's political priorities for the coming year were made clear at its annual member celebration Thursday night.

Get_photo"There is no political agenda item that we are more committed to as an organization than the passing of the extension of the local sales tax," chamber president John Wade told the crowd of business leaders filling the Rochester International Event  Center.

He said the renewal of the sales tax in November 2012 would fuel a boost to the local economy and benefit Rochester's schools, libraries, infrastructure and more.

The tens of millions of dollars generated by the tax will help leverage hundreds of millions in private sector investment, Wade said.

"Trust me, I can give you a whole list of taxes I don't like. This one is good for business," he said. "I believe in my core that this one is good for business."

To lead the drive toward the passage of the sales tax extension, the chamber is launching a new committee.

Former Rochester school superintendent Jerry Williams will be the chairman of the new group. He also was presented with the President's Award for community service.

Williams accepted both the job and the award.

"As I look out amongst the group here, there are so many of you who have given service of self to this marvelously amazing community," he said looking at the tables full of the local leaders. "To those of you who give so generously of your time, talents and efforts for this marvelous community, I share this with you. I am deeply, deeply appreciative."

While the sales tax extension tops the chamber's political wish list, the expansion of the Mayo Civic Center remains a goal, but is not a pressing one, Wade said.

"Our hospitality industry knows how important the expansion of the civic center is," he said. "But it has to be done at the right time in the right way."

While the presentation to Williams was the most dramatic of the night, it was not the only award given out.

Business of the Year: Creative Cuisine, the company behind many popular Rochester restaurants that includes Newt's, City Cafe, City Market, 300 First and the recently revived Redwood Room.

Brothers Dave and Mark Currie accepted the award.

Chamber Volunteer of the Year: Jaimi Stejskal-Kent of Broadway Residence & Suites by Bridgestreet won the award for her work with the chamber.

• The Lamp of Knowledge award: The annual award for outstanding work with education was presented to Wendy Shannon, superintendent of the Byron Public School system.

Chamber Ambassador of the Year award: After reciting her long list of accomplishments with the chamber's Ambassador program, the award went to Karen Hanson of Home Instead Senior Care.

April 18, 2011

Mega biz networking

  Here's a quick reminder as you look at your calendar for the week.

Business After Hours Extra!, the annual super-sized version of the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce's monthly business networking events, is coming up yet this week. 

Hopefully, the snow will be out of the way by then.

Here are the details:

Rochester's business community's annual super-sized networking event and expo is coming up Thursday.


The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring its Business After Hours Extra! bash from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Kahler Grand Hotel in downtown Rochester.


6a00d83451cc8269e20133ed7d8ee8970b-250wiThis event, which is open to the general public, generally draws a crowd of about 400 people, according to Brian Olson, the chamber's communications director.


The expanded version of the chamber's monthly business gatherings will set up in the Kahler's newly revamped Heritage Hall conference center in the hotel's subway.


More than 75 area businesses and non-profits will have displays at this year's event.


A cash bar and appetizers will be available.

February 04, 2011

Roch. Feed & Country - today's AM Espresso

There was a good crowd at Rochester Area Chamber's AM Espresso this morning at the Rochester Feed & Country Store.

Rochester Feed hosted the monthly networking breakfast with in partnership with Hope Ranch.

I had some good chats and learned a few things, which is always a good way to start a Friday morning.

One prominent tidbit was delivered by 2011 Chamber President Melissa Brinkman of Custom Alarm as she led the ring of introductions.

• The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce might be the largest chamber in the state. That is based on data on Minnesota Chambers of Commerce recently listed in the Twin Cities Business Journal.

I'll check that out and see if I can officially confirm it.

02042011nettarochfeedamespressojk • The annual Business After Hours EXTRA mega networking event is scheduled for April 21 in the Kahler Grand Hotel's refurbished Heritage Hall. This is a month earlier than in past years.

And, in my subjective opinion, Scott Wiederhoeft of Roto Rooter had the best business tagline during the introductions.  "Our plumbers all wear belts." Heh.

Netta Putzier, who co-owns Rochester Feed with Bob Kopplin, gave me a quick behind the scene tour and showed me the latest addition to the pet grooming side of the operation - a massive claw foot bathtub to bathe the dogs in style.

January 20, 2011

Business events TONIGHT

Here's a quick reminder about business networking as well as an award program tonight in Rochester.

Business After Hours, the monthly Rochester Area Chamber networking night, is slated from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Eastwood Bank is hosting the event at its 1625 U.S. 14 East. This is the branch near Big Lots.

Workforce Development, Inc. is hosting an awards program tonight to honor eight southeasthern Minnesota business as qualifying for their Best Places to Work designation.

Companies in the Fewer than 100 Employees Category
IBI Data, Brownsdale
LarsonAllen LLP, Austin
POET Biorefining, Preston
Commercial Water Distributing, Zumbrota

Companies in the Over 100 Employees Category
Olmsted Medical Center, Rochester
Pearson, Owatonna
Mrs. Gerry's Kitchen, Albert Lea
The Bergquist Company, Cannon Falls

November 01, 2010

Chamber's plan for the future

I know it is pretty silly to post a piece about the 2010 Rochester Area Chamber meeting fours days after the event.

But this whole column a day thing has me a bit behind on the blog.

Anyway, the annual chamber bash was packed with 640 people.

Chamber President John Wade and new board chair Melissa Brinkman both rolled out some interesting things in their speeches. I'll be following up those soon.

Here's some from the chamber article PLUS a pic of new chamber board chair Brinkman with her dad Leigh Johnson at a ribbon cutting in 1975.

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Last year John Wade told the crowd at the annual Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce celebration that the city was open for business.

The chamber president's message Thursday night took that idea a step further with initiatives to spur economic development.

Brinkman "This will help us build a community that is not only open for business, but also open to business," he told the hundreds of chamber members Thursday at the Rochester International Event Center.

Putting numbers to the business growth goals, he said the target is to create 8,000 to 10,000 new jobs, spur $850 million of capital investment and create $1.2 billion of economic output in the next 10 years. That would follow Rochester's record of producing 10,000 jobs in the past 10 years.

One way to do that, Wade said, is to revamp the city's building and development departments to improve efficiencies.

Wade "Almost weekly we hear complaints about our permitting process," he said referring to problems reported by national and local companies developing projects in Rochester.

To address this, the chamber along with local builders and Realtors will work with the city government to re-design the departments in charge of Rochester development permits.

"Together we're going to work to create a streamlined and innovative permitting process that will result in increased economic investment," Wade said."Rather than having one of the most challenging development processes in the state of Minnesota, we will have one of the best resulting in cost savings but more importantly, increased investment."

Another pieces of the plan to boost business locally is to ask the city for $10 million to support the local push called Destination Medical to make Rochester known as the premier place for medical care in the world.

Through Rochester Economic Development Inc. and the chamber, $35 million is being requested from the proposed sale tax money to create a fund to fuel economic development.