More than a year after starting a national search for an executive director to lead the Destination Medical Center's Economic Development Agency, Mayo Clinic's Lisa Clarke has been hired to fill that role.
As DMC's board secretary and Mayo Clinic's Community Engagement head, Clarke has filled the interim role of leading the EDA from the organization's start.
The DMC group originally posted advertisements for the position in February 2014, in hopes of hiring someone by April of that year. This hiring is solely the responsibility of the EDA and doesn't involve the DMC Corp. board or the Rochester City Council.
Clarke previously described her role as the first executive director of the EDA as building the organization and creating the processes as well as getting approval of the DMC master plan. The next director has a different job ahead of them.
"The first full time executive director's role will be to execute the plan," she said. "The important thing is to get someone who has the experience in economic development and in development, in general. The most important thing is to get the right person with the right skill set."
While Lisa Clarke will step into the role of EDA director, she will remain connected to Mayo Clinic.
"The technical answer is that she's 100 percent an employee of the EDA," said Jeff Bolton, Mayo Clinic's Chief Administrative Officer and chair of the EDA . "However, we did not want her to lose the benefit of being a Mayo employee."
Bolton explained that all of the personnel costs related to Clarke will be covered by Mayo Clinic from that $585,000 annual contribution to the EDA.
"I'm part of the package," said Clarke with a grin.
When asked about Mayo Clinic's relationship with the EDA, Bolton said, "The EDA is a separate legal entity. It is separate from Mayo."
Clarke plans to set up an office for the EDA staff in the roughly 6,000-square-foot former Red Lobster space at 195 S. Broadway.
The space is on the street level of the 60-year-old Rosa Parks Pavilion building. Mayo bought the building for $2.37 million in 1997, and Red Lobster leased space there from 1987 until it closed in 2011 and opened in a new building by Apache Mall.
With the hiring of Clarke and the EDA moving into Mayo Clinic office, is Mayo Clinic concerned about the possible appearance that it is controlling the EDA?
"I do think the EDA an independent agency is the right approach, the right structure. This is a many part orchestra, if you will. I do see Mayo having one voice in this with the city, county and the state," Bolton said. "I think there's a good separation without making it independent of the entire process. Everything is really tightly connected, really tightly coordinated."
Clarke echoed Bolton's sentiments about the relationship between Mayo and the EDA.
"It truly has been a very positive thing to have all of these players around the table to represent the diversity of the community and its diverse businesses with Mayo Clinic being the largest," she said.
Lisa Smith, the lieutenant governor of Minnesota and chair of the DMCCorp. board of directors said that Mayo's role is important to the big picture.
"From the perspective of the state, it's great to have a really, really strong anchored tenant in the private sector. We've got four strong partners with very specific ideas about moving this forward," she said. "There are a lot of strong opinions around the table. I think it works very well."