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67 posts categorized "Conventions"

December 01, 2014

Ramada = Kahler Apache

A 37-year-old Rochester hotel is trading a national brand for a local one.

The Ramada Hotel & Conference Center, owned by Dan and Terri Penz, of Rochester, officially became the Kahler Apache on Friday. The 149-room hotel is at 1517 16th St. S.W.

Neither of the Penzes were available for comment on Sunday.

01122014ramadakahlersignWhile the southwest hotel now shares a name with four downtown hotels, Kahler Hospitality Group Marketing Director Cherylanne Thomas said it is not financially linked to the other hotels, and KHG is not licensing the name. KHG, which is led locally by businessman Javon Bea, owns the Kahler Grand Hotel, the Kahler Inn & Suites, the Marriott Rochester, the Residence Inn and the Textile Care Services industrial laundry.

"We're just managing this for Dan Penz. We're just consultants," she said. "We just lent him our name to his property because he chose to de-flag it as a Ramada. We're saving him on the franchise fee, which is savings he can pass on to his guests."

KHG and the Penzes signed a contractlast summer that turned the management of the hotel over to the Kahler hotel team. In a similar relationship, KHG hired Colorado-based Richfield Hospitality to manage the Kahler hotels in 2013. Thomas said because KHG doesn't have ownership in the Kahler Apache, Richfield does not have any involvement that hotel.

This name change for the former Ramada will have no effect on the hotel's about 60 employees, said Thomas.

"They are still under an employment contract with Dan Penz. That has nothing to do with us," she said.

01122014kahlerapchesignA longtime Kahler employee, Chase Albrecht was recently named as general manager of the hotel.

"He (Albrecht) now is an employee of Dan Penz," Thomas said. "The previous GM had left on his own."

The Penzes originally purchased the hotel when it was under the Best Western brand in 2002. It became a Ramada franchise in 2004. The hotel originally was built by well-known developer George Baihly in 1977, and it opened as a Midway Motor Lodge. This is the first time the hotel will not have a national brand name over the entrance.

Driven by loyal return visitors coming for Mayo Clinic, Rochester has long been a stronghold for independent hotels without a national brand. While the Kahler name was franchised nationally in the past, Rochester has always been its primary base of operations. Other local independents include the Fiksdal Hotel and the adjacent Aspen Suites.


Local developer Ed Pompeian also has found success with his two Brentwood hotels.

Independent hotels struggled for many years nationally as the big chains established online reservations and rewards program. However, that is changing, said industry expert Smith Travel Research Inc. STR data shows occupancy and revenue at independent hotels growing quickly this year. Analysts point to local market knowledge and online review sites, such as Tripadvisor.com as keeping independents competitive with big chains like Marriott and Hilton.

Hotels, always important in Rochester, are growing quickly as part of the new Destination Medical Center economy. Almost 400 new rooms to be added in 2015 to the current 5,443 rooms.
Brad Jones, executive director of the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau, expects Rochester will pass the 6,000 room milestone in 2017.

July 22, 2014

Bea's Kahler group reaches beyond Rochester's downtown

The Kahler Hospitality Group, the Rochester company led by Javon Bea, is checking out the hotel market beyond downtown.

15344_b1The local buzz for weeks has been that the Kahler group, which owns four hotels in downtown Rochester, is taking the reins at the Ramada Hotel & Conference Center at 1517 16th St. S.W.

While neither the KHG leadership nor Ramada team officially have admitted it, a recent Kahler email about catering changes seems to confirm that the hotels are now linked.

A mass email sent Monday by the Kahler group's new catering director included the Ramada logo among its hotel brands and it specifically pointed out that the Kahler's new policy opening its event spaces to outside caterers does not include the Ramada Hotel.

Chef Pasquale Presa, the Kahler's executive director of food and beverage operations, also includes the Ramada in the list of hotels under his management on his professional LinkedIn page. Local contractors also say that the Kahler group is talking to local builders about contracting for work on the Ramada complex.

The big unanswered question is whether the Kahler Hospitality Group has purchased the hotel from Rochester developers Dan and Terri Penz or if KHG has been contracted just to manage the Ramada facility.

No matter which is correct, the Kahler's involvement with the Ramada signals a major change for both organizations.

The Penzes also own the adjacent T.J. Maxx Shopping Center and Elcor Construction as well as other Rochester properties and businesses. They bought the hotel in January 2002 and changed its brand from Best Western to Ramada in 2004.

In 2011, the Penzes closed their hotel restaurant called Teresa's. That cleared the way for Joe Powers and his Powers Ventures firm to create new convention space within the hotel. At about the same time, Jim Nicholas leased space to open Wildwood Sports Bar in the Ramada complex. It's unclear what kind of impact, if any, the Kahler involvement in the hotel could have on the Powers and Wildwood operations.

On the other end of the deal, the Kahler Hospitality Group is a collection of five unidentified investors who bought the Kahler Grand Hotel, the Kahler Inn & Suites, the Marriott Rochester, the Residence Inn and the Textile Care Services industrial laundry for $230 million in 2012. Javon Bea, of Oronoco, is the well known public face of the organization.

In 2013, the Kahler group hired the Colorado-based Richfield Hospitality to manage the downtown hotels.

November 15, 2013

Mayo Clinic to be at center of LifeScience Alley conference

This is kind of interesting. LifeScience Alley, Minnesota's medical device and bioscience industry group, is hosting its 2013 conference in Minneapolis next week.

And Mayo Clinic will be the centerpiece. If I register by midnight, it will only cost me $495 to attend. If I don't hit the button by midnight, it'll cost me $750.

Hhhhmm.... I think I'll stay in Rochester and confer with inside sources here. Maybe with the bosses gone, folks will feel more chatty than usual. Heh.

Here's some from the conference pitch:

On Wednesday, at the LifeScience Alley 2013 Conference in Minneapolis, leaders from world-class life science and healthcare organizations will discuss how changes in healthcare policy and delivery are rewriting the way our community innovates, operates and delivers value to patients.  

New-Technology-Showcase-Logo-2012-ConfOne of these organizations is this year's New Technology Showcase Partner, Mayo Clinic.  As a global leader in healthcare innovation and delivery, Mayo Clinic will be introducing several cutting-edge life science technologies, two of which originate from research conducted at Mayo.   

During the Morning Keynote, "Controlling Costs in the New Healthcare Environment - Effectively Managing the Global Supply Chain", Mayo Clinic's Karen Wolfe will highlight how the organization manages logistics and its global supply chain to minimize healthcare costs while delivering more value to its patients.   

In addition, representatives from Mayo Clinic Ventures, Mayo Clinic Research and Destination Medical Center (DMC) will be at their booths to discuss all that Mayo Clinic and the city of Rochester have to offer life science companies and entrepreneurs.

October 17, 2013

IBM's Watson + Cleve Clinic and Mayo + Optum

Improving healthcare is an ongoing project, particularly here in Rochester.

Here are a couple locally linked tidbits I came across this week about efforts that are using technology to attack this issue.

IBM-Watson-Jeopardy-500x285First, everyone remembers IBM's Jeopardy-playing supercomputer Watson. Much of its development occured here in Rochester. I remember the UMR hosting a big viewing session for local business leaders and Mayo Clinic execs, so everyone could watch the celebrity computer answer Alex Trebec.

These days Watson is specializing in helping doctors at the Cleveland Clinic. They announced some developments this week.
Ibm-watson-david-ferrucci-2IBM Research unveiled two new Watson-related cognitive technologies that are expected to help physicians make more informed and accurate decisions faster and to cull new insights from electronic medical records (EMR).

The projects known as "WatsonPaths" and "Watson EMR Assistant" are the result of a year-long research collaboration with fa culty, physicians and students at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University. Both are key projects that will create technologies that can be leveraged by Watson to advance the technology in the domain of medicine.

• WatsonPaths explores a complex scenario and draws conclusions much like people do in real life. When presented with a medical case, WatsonPaths extracts statements based on the knowledge it has learned as a result of being trained by medical doctors and from medical literature.

WatsonPaths can use Watson's question-answering abilities to examine the scenario from many angles. The system w Watson2orks its way through chains of evidence -- pulling from reference materials, clinical guidelines and medical journals in real-time -- and draws inferences to support or refute a set of hypotheses. This ability to map medical evidence allows medical professionals to consider new factors that may help them to create additional differential diagnosis and treatment options.

----

Of course, Mayo Clinic's involved in many projects to improve medical treatments and healthcare in general.

One such project is the "strategic research alliance" Mayo Clinic formed in January with OptumHealth, a technology and consulting division of the Minnetonka, Minn.-based health insurer UnitedHealth Group.

Together they launched Optum Labs in Cambridge, Mass. Optum Labs CEO Paul Bleicher spoke about what they are doing at a conference this week.

Mayo_optum_690Optum Labs will use claims and clinical data to answer pressing health questions. It will use a database that includes 149 million patient records from UNH, electronic medical records covering 5 million lives from Mayo Clinic, and 12 million electronic medical records from Humedica.

Speaking at the recent StrataRx conference in Boston, Optum Labs CEO Paul Bleicher, M.D., Ph.D., said Cambridge, Mass.-based Optum will use advanced analytics and data visualization techniques to support research and innovation projects that will improve patient care and lower cost.

The new partnership of Mayo Clinic and OptumHealth also represents a source of new opportunities for healthcare entrepreneurs, said Bleicher, who expects new health IT companies to emerge from this effort. "That is one of the goals," Bleicher said. "We want to develop technologies and innovations that could be spun off into companies, in collaboration with venture capitalists."

He said Optum Labs is actively seeking other partners and "accepting applications from anybody doing research who is willing to do so with complete transparency, in a non-commercial fashion." The mission is "very public, publication research that will advance the cause of healthcare and anyone who participates." Influencing healthcare policymakers is also one of the goals, he said.

ViewMediaAnother priority of Optum Labs is enlisting "new partners who will bring additional data of high value," Bleicher said. "We want other payers - and everybody - to be in the tent, because if all of the data is in one place, there is opportunity to dive deep into it." It will also be important that "the findings don't stay stuck in 'silos' but are distributed widely, so they become valuable for more than just a few organizations."

The cost of some of the projects Optum Labs undertakes could be shared by National Institutes of Health grants or by partnering with life sciences or IT companies, Bleicher added.

Mark Hayward, administrator of Mayo Clinic's Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery, said there will be "information technology that will come out of our labs that will spin off new technologies and methodologies."

October 03, 2013

Two more hotels in works for NW Rochester

Two new hotel projects are gearing up in northwest Rochester, which means the city could see at least four new hotels with about 375 rooms open in 2014.

Two developers plan to build a 77-room Comfort Inn and Suites and a 109-room Staybridge Suites along West Circle Drive in front of Costco.

Both projects have submitted plans to Rochester Building Safety Department with the hope of beginning construction this year.

Gozwhuevpu_41838b34_8380_574d_dbf3_2cddae47d2e6Two other hotels — Homewood Suites on Second Street Southwest and La Quinta Inn and Suites in Shoppes on Maine — are already under construction. Homewood will have 108 rooms, and La Quinta will have 83.

Other hotels have been proposed for downtown Rochester, though they are in the very early stages.

All of this activity doesn't surprise Brad Jones, president of the Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"We knew that we were going to need more hotels," he said. "I think we'll hit 6,000 hotel rooms by the end of 2014."

Rochester has 5,359 rooms available now. That puts this city second in the state behind Minneapolis, which has more than 10,000 rooms.

Through August, occupancy at Rochester hotels is up almost 8 percent over last year. That means an average of 65 percent of local hotel rooms are filled at any time.

"That's huge growth in what's typically a very stable market," Jones said. "We're outperforming the trends throughout the country and the state. Whenever you see that, you'll see building projects start up."

October 07, 2011

Dancing With The Stars + Minnesota apples?

Cutting-board Two things I never expected to come appear together in a business item - Minnesota apples and the "Dancing With The Stars" TV show.

And yet they will come together on Oct. 16, when dancer Chelsie Hightower will make an appearance at the expo booth of an orchard that grows Minnesota's up and coming apple variety, SweeTango.

Get it? She's a dancer, right? And the tango is a dance, though in this case… uh… it really is an apple.

Chelsie_Hightower The SweeTango name for the University of Minnesota created apple variety came from Dennis Courtier, the president of Pepin Heights Orchards in Lake City.

Courtier also spearheaded the creation of the Next Big Thing cooperative of SweeTango growers that govern the growing and marketing of the apples, which are a cross between Honeycrisp and Zestar.

Now playing off that name, Hightower is slated to appear at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit in Atlanta later this month.

She'll be at the booth of Fowler Farms Of New York. Fowler is one of the 45 members of the Next Big Thing co-op.

I think there needs to be some sort of reality show competition to choose the best apple variety. It could be called "America's Next Top Apple."

Uh… or maybe not. Heh.

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.

October 21, 2010

Saudi royal family visit = $1.3M

Here's some fron the follow-up to my post a couple weeks ago about some of the Saudi Arabia royal family visiting Rochester.

The full piece is in print today.

A visit from members of the Saudi Arabian royal family boosted Rochester cash registers by an estimated $1.3 million this month.

The Saudi group, which reportedly includes direct members of the Middle Eastern royal family, has been in Rochester nearly three weeks.
A Saudi Arabia Airlines Boeing 777 departed Tuesday for Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, from Rochester International Airport. Transport trucks were lined up next to a line of Mercedes Benz  in front of the Kahler Grand Hotel as some in the group prepared to leave and take their new possessions with them, boxed up for shipping. The remainder of the group are expected to leave later this week.

Saudi-Arabia-Currency Official sources estimated anonymously that the group included more than 100 people connected to the royal family.

The visit is similar to one two years ago that officials estimated provided a $1.5 million economic shot in the arm to Rochester's economy.

As in November 2008, the royal family members likely are visiting this month for examinations or treatment at Mayo Clinic. Clinic representatives could not confirm or deny that, however others with knowledge of the visit indicated the visits were for medical evaluations and treatment.

August 30, 2010

Zombies on parade

In case you missed it over the weekend, here's some from what I wrote up about Rochester's first zombie walk Saturday plus a pic by Scott Jacobson.

If you want to see some video Scott shot of the faux dead event, some is posted here.

It was the sunny afternoon of the … uh … dead today in Rochester.

A mob of almost 100 zombie fans covered in fake blood gathered in the downtown Peace Plaza for Rochester's first-ever Zombie Walk.


 "Awesome," is what young Sam Hanson declared the event as he followed the shuffling zombies down Broadway. While he didn't dress up for it, Hanson did enjoy watching the sort of undead parade.

Sam's parents, Cory and Kimberly, brought Sam and his sister out to see the spectacle, because "he is a huge monster movie fan."

Not every spectator was as excited about the theatrical group.

A couple eating dinner in front of Mac's Diner said they were "appalled" by the display and that the zombies "should get real and have more purpose to their lives."Irfrhk2tso1yft8282010202116

However, by far, the majority of people on downtown's sidewalks and streets seemed entertained by the invasion of the legendary brain-eating monsters. Spectators took photos, honked horns, laughed and shouted their support.

Many people said it was refreshing to see Rochester embrace something different.

"I didn't get to run around town like a zombie," said 30-year-old Jane Remfert, who was visiting her parents, Elizabeth and Jeff Remfert. "I would have loved to have done that growing up here."

The Remferts sat on a bench watching the zombies gathering in the Peace Plaza. Looking for something to do to entertain their daughter, the Remferts decided zombie watching might be fun.

Another set of parents, Connor and Erin Letts, were also pleased that a zombie walk had made it to their hometown.

Two of their kids, 4-year-old Hank and 5 1/2-year-old Rosie, were very familiar with the zombie scene as they ran around in the green grass sporting makeup and fake blood.

Connor, whose band Zed on Arrival will perform later, said the kids had been to many zombie gatherings throughout the region with their parents.

"It is its own subculture," he said.

The Letts thought it was great that instead of driving to the Twin Cities or South Dakota, zombies had arrived in Rochester.

"I think it was overdue," said Connor.

While pretend undead started to limp toward the parking lot of Top Cat Tattoo on Broadway, another member of the Letts family — 10-day-old baby Nora — slept through her first zombie walk.

Connor said she'll get other chances to check out the zombie scene, hopefully in Rochester.

"She'll be going to a lot more of these," Nora's dad said with a bloody smile.

June 23, 2010

Fennel Studio -Thurs. on 1st & 3rd vendor profile

Here's the first of what I hope to be a weekly profile of a vendor at Thursdays on First and Third downtown Rochester street festival.

Unfortunately, the pics and info box were clipped from today's print edition due to a perceived lack of space on the business page.

06172010fennelstudio2jk• Owner is Michele Heidel of Rochester
• Thursdays on First & Third booth: 200 block of First Avenue Southwest
• Best-selling items: small, colorful snap wallets.
• Heidel does accept custom orders
• Website: www.fennelstudio.com

 Michele Heidel is taking her soft touch and her soft art to the street every Thursday.

Heidel, the artist owner of Fennel Studio, is displaying and selling her woven wares at the weekly Thursdays on First & Third street festival.

Standing by her table full of colorful handbags, journals with decorative stitching on the covers, sachets, dishcloths and other items, Heidel explains her work stems from her love of design and soft things.

"I believe things can be utilitarian and have good, interesting design," she says.

She started making and then selling her unique "Modern Soft Goods" full-time last summer.

A year later, the Rochester artist is still enjoying marketing her creations at festivals and such events as Rochesterfest and the upcoming Think Green Fair on Saturday at the Olmsted County Fairgrounds.

07172010fennelstudio1jkShe has master's degrees in fiber arts and arts administration. After working at a variety of major art museums around the U.S., Heidel and her husband moved to Rochester.

That's when she decided to return to the roots of what she loves about art — creating it. So she launched Fennel Studio in her spare bedroom.

"It is nice to see art school pay off," she says.

Why the name?

"That's the color of the paint on the walls in the spare bedroom," Heidel says with a grin.

Fennel Studio is one of more than 100 craft and food vendors at the weekly Thursdays on First & Third street fair from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. each Thursday through Sept. 2.