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298 posts categorized "Downtown Roch. buzz"

May 01, 2015

Kahler, union contract talks at an impasse

Talks between the Kahler Hotel Group and the union representing most of its employees are at an impasse over health-care benefits and wages.

KHG, which includes four downtown Rochester hotels and the Textile Care Services commercial laundry, has been talking with Unite Here Local 21 since the start of the year. Local 21 represents about 480 KHG employees, including about 250 at the hotels and 200 at TCS.

177-8a6711a9b2b093a4d3be0de7aefc518dDue to a April 14 ruling by the National Labor Relations Board, the hotels and commercial laundry no longer will negotiate as one bargaining unit. That means each will have a separate contract, though the union says the details of the proposed contract and points of contention are very similar for both groups.

The latest contract, which was a six-month extension of a previous three-year contract, ended at the start of March. Since then, the hotels' housekeepers, bartenders, cooks and bellmen, as well as the laundry employees, have been working without a contract.

Local 21 President Brian Brandt and a team of employee representatives met with KHG and Richfield Hospitality executives on Tuesday to discuss the proposed five-year contract. Both sides say no progress was made nor was another meeting scheduled.

"The negotiations broke down very quickly," said Brandt. "They aren't budging even a little bit. They rejected our proposal outright without discussion or explanation of why."

Brandt said Tuesday's talks lasted about a half hour.
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Patrick Short, area managing director of operations for Kahler, said "several items" were covered at the meeting.

"At this time, we are not against an additional meeting, but no date has been chosen. We currently are standing by our last proposal offered on March 24," stated Short in an email Tuesday afternoon. The two sides last met on April 16.

Short released a broad outline of KHG's contract proposal with a statement last week.

"In our last best and final offer, we believe we have offered a very competitive package which continues to contain the best package for hospitality workers in the entire city of Rochester," he wrote in an email sent late Thursday afternoon.

Short says KHG is paying for up to 70 percent of the premium costs for the insurance provided to the union associates.

But Brandt responded that the deductibles are too high — more than $4,300 for single and more than $8,500 for plus one and family coverage and no copay on the prescription medications.

On wages, Short said KHG's offer would give 88 percent of the union associates an increase in their hourly rate of pay at the signing of the contract.

The union says while most would get a pay increase, the majority of employees would receive less than 1 percent on signing and less than 5 percent over the next five years. In addition, the offer reduces the step increases at 24, 42 and 60 months.

On the point of wages, Short said the KHG contract offer "does not reduce the hourly rate of pay for any of the union associates, regardless if the associate has been here a year or 30 years."

The union says one group of employees — banquet servers — will see a reduction of income under the KHG contract offer. They no longer will receive any of the service charge the company adds on to customers' bill, which will result in a 50 percent or more pay loss for the servers.

Following Tuesday's meeting, Brandt said Local 21 intends to file a number of charges against KHG of possible violations of federal law with the National Labor Relations Board. The charges include surface bargaining, bad faith bargaining, failing to provide accurate information for negotiations, discriminating against bargaining committee members concerning discipline and job assignments, telling probationary workers to remove union buttons and change in working conditions by removing union notices from bulletin boards.

The question facing both groups now is what comes next in the negotiations.

"We'll definitely be taking more actions and doing the things we need to do to pressure on the company," said Brandt.

Those immediate actions will include more picket lines in front of the Kahler hotels. When asked if those actions could include some sort of strike or work stoppage, he responded, "It's is always an option, without a doubt."

April 30, 2015

Lisa Clarke to officially become leader of DMC's EDA

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."

Rochester chamber office closed

If you have business to do at the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, don't go to their offices on South Broadway today.

The offices will be closed for renovations for 6-8 weeks. The chamber staff will be working off-site during that time.
Chamber events will continue as scheduled.
 
 
Call 288-1122, if you have questions.

April 22, 2015

UMR prepares land for campus

The University of Minnesota Rochester started cleaning up its land on South Broadway this week as an early step toward building a new campus.

Crews are removing asphalt, concrete and top soil on the former sites of China Dynasty and Rico Mex buildings at 701 S. Broadway and 617 S. Broadway. UMR bought the properties in 2009 and 2010 for a combined cost of $2.2 million. It demolished in the buildings in 2011.

UMRcampussite"We always we knew at some point in time we'd have to do some environmental remediation," said Jay Hesley, UMR's assistant vice chancellor for institutional advancement.

The plan is to remove a layer of possibly contaminated top soil, replacing it and landscaping the area with grass, trees and shrubs to provide natural "passive remediation." Basically, that will let the soil "breathe."

However, UMR wants to make it clear that this will not be a park, though the public will have access to certain areas.

"This is a temporary action for holding and maintaining the property in the long run," he said "The land will eventually be redeveloped. It will become an eventual building site for the campus.".

The timing for that eventual campus construction is unknown at this point, according to UMR.

The master plan is to build its long-proposed 10.5-acre campus in the area near Soldiers Memorial Field. The university, which opened in 2011, is now based on the third and fourth floors of the University Square mall in downtown Rochester as well as in he nearby 318 Commons building. The school is already getting close to outgrowing those spaces, officials say.

In recent years, UMR has acquired and demolished six buildings in the area as it moved toward the campus plan.

In 2014, it wrapped up a long-planned purchase of 601 First Ave. SW., 609 First Ave. S.W. and 114 Sixth St. S.W. from the City of Rochester. That included the former KTTC facility, a small office building and a small place last used as a halal meat market. UMR paid $1.32 million for the properties.

The now empty ex-KTTC site is slated to be the first phase of the eventual campus project. Hesley expects the Broadway properties currently being cleaned up will be the site of the second phase of the campus.

While work on the campus master plan "depends on our needs and requirements," it could start within four or five years, he said.

However, it might not be UMR's needs that eventually trigger the start of campus construction. Hesley said the university is looking at this as "a community campus" that might involve private partners to help develop it. UMR used a public/private model for 318 Commons, which houses most of the students, many classrooms and faculty offices. That tower was built by Rochester developers Hal Henderson and Grant Michelitz. They lease the majority of it to UMR.

"Many other organizations are going to have the opportunity to participate in the campus to develop a real community asset," he said. "They might drive demand for building sites ahead of UMR's needs."

April 16, 2015

Cardio3 changes name to better fit new focus

The Mayo Clinic-linked firm Cardio3 Biosciences, which is building a manufacturing facility in downtown Rochester, has abruptly decided to change its name to better fit its widening focus in the growing area of cell-based therapies.

Cardiobioscience_jpegThe Belgium-based biotech firm announced Wednesday that it changed its name to Celyad. It started using the new name immediately, though shareholders will not vote on the change until its annual meeting May 5.

This sudden move comes as the company is preparing for an initial public offering on the U.S. stock exchange. Celyad has not released a date for the IPO.

CEO Dr. Christian Homsy was quoted in a company statement saying this new name fits with the firm's new direction following its recent $10 million acquisition of Celdara Medical's oncology division, OnCyte. That signals an expansion beyond its stem-cell-based cardiac regeneration therapy into immuno-oncology. The regenerative stem cell therapy is based on research done by Dr. Andre Terzic and Dr. Atta Behfar, licensed from the Mayo Cli6a00d83451cc8269e201a511d8e824970c-250winic.

“We believe that the name change better aligns our identity with our core activities and overall unified objective of identifying and translating innovative cell-based therapies into therapeutics, not only in cardiology, but now also in oncology and potentially in other areas in the future,” Homsy stated in the announcement of the new name.

Celyad's U.S. communication staff said Wednesday that no one from the company could publicly comment on the name change, other than through the press release. Celyad spokeswoman Kirsten Thomas, of The Ruth Group, explained the silence was due to the U.S Securities Exchange Commission's imposed "quiet period" on promotional publicity during the buildup to the IPO.

Mayo Clinic and Celyad have collaborated since 2007 on the cardiopoiesis technology that the company uses to repair patients' hearts by re-programming their own stem cells to regenerate cardiac tissue. Mayo Clinic owned 2.69 percent of the company as of March 3. Mayo Clinic also is participating in a Celyad clinical trial.
Celyad
If the stem cell therapy makes it to the market, Celyad will pay Mayo Clinic $1 million a year for four years for research as well a 2 percent royalty on sales for 15 years, the press release says.

5503a0ea8a679.image"We are excited that Celyad is branching out beyond cardiology into areas such as oncology," stated Jim Rogers, the chairman of Mayo Clinic Ventures. "Our hope is that they are building a robust capability to deliver breakthrough therapies in the area of regenerative medicine, which is a significant priority for Mayo as well."

The name change comes before new signs have gone up in the city of Rochester's Minnesota Biobusiness Center. The city signed a lease with Celyad earlier this year for it to develop a prototype manufacturing facility in the 14,963 square feet of space on the fifth floor of the downtown building. The five-year lease calls for Celyad to pay a rent of $18 per square foot, or $22,444.50 per month. The city agreed in the lease to pay for $600,000 in equipment and improvements to the space.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development also signed a deal with Celyad on Jan. 12 to receive a Minnesota Job Creation Fund award of $357,000. To collect the money, it must invest $1.5 million in Rochester within a year, plus hire 33 employees within two years.

The ultimate goal of the project is for the city, state and Rochester Area Economic Development Inc. to eventually convince Celyad to build a 100,000-square-foot manufacturing facility with 350 employees in Rochester, according to RAEDI officials.

However, Rochester is not the only city wooing the Belgium company. While the Rochester facility is the company's first official U.S. location, it also has plans to build a U.S. headquarters in Boston.

It seems as though Celyad is at a turning point. The company has worked on developing its cardiac regenerative therapy since 2007. While it has seen many positive results from trials in Europe and research in the United States, it has no products currently on the market.

The company lost $18.1 million in 2014, up from $15.9 million in losses in 2013. While the cardiopoiesis technology developed by Mayo Clinic appears to be promising, the company seems to be embracing the new CAR T-Cell cancer-fighting approach — essentially, a cancer vaccine — that it purchased from Celdara Medical for $10 million earlier this year.

"Our acquisition of the OnCyte CAR T-Cell portfolio in early 2015 heralds the first major step in our strategy to leverage our unique expertise in cell therapies and drug development to expand beyond the cardiac arena to develop breakthrough treatments to change the outcome of disease," stated Homsy last month.

"We are excited to be expanding our product offering into the prominent area of immuno-oncology and anticipate the initiation of the Phase I trial of our lead immuno-oncology candidate, CAR-NKG2D in the first half of 2015 and look forward to sharing details of our progress as we evaluate its clinical potential," Homsy said. "We intend to leverage our cell therapy know-how and infrastructure to quickly progress those assets into later stage clinical trials in 2016, aiming at more than five trials in liquid and solid tumors in the USA and Europe."

Many companies are vying for a spot in the hot CAR T-Cell area to be the one to develop the breakthrough cancer vaccine. The worldwide market for such vaccines was recently estimated to $8.4 billion in 2020.

April 10, 2015

Philly has arrived on Broadway with the new Tinn's sub shop

A taste of Philadelphia is now available on Rochester's North Broadway.

Tinn's Grilled Philly Steak Subs fired up the grill Friday at its new location in the former Ali Baba Restaurant spot at 101 N. Broadway Ave.

TinnsonbroadwayTinn's, originally founded by Tien Danh, serves a variety of sandwich, including a several versions of the classic Philly steak sandwich. This latest location is Tinn's third in Rochester.  It also has locations at 3462 55th St. in the Northwest Plaza and in the First Avenue Food Court on the skyway level at 100 First Ave. SW.

The Broadway sub shop underwent an extensive makeover. This Tinn's is a sit-down restaurant with seating for about 20, as well as offering take-out. Tinn's General Manager Bounlot Singkeo has estimated that he would need about eight to 10 employees to staff it.

The number of Tinn's shop is expected to grow to four early this summer. Singkeo is also opening a take-out only location shop across from Mayo Clinic's Saint Marys Hospital on Second Street. It will be located next to Tonic.

Staff at Tinn's estimate that the Second Street location could be ready to open by late Mayo or early June.

"We saw an opportunity there. We have a lot of customers at Saint Marys," said Singkeo of why they decided open there. "So we thought we'd give it a try."

FDA gives green light to Rochester medical software start-up

A Rochester medical software start-up with financial ties to Mayo Clinic says getting approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is a major milestone for the company.

"It's tough to get. It's a big deal for us. Historically been rare in the software industry to have these type of devices to fall into that class," said Al Berning, CEO of Ambient Clinical Analytics.

Berning is known in Rochester as a former IBMer, a co-founder of Pemstar and former CEO of Hardcore Computers/LiquidCool Solutions.

Ambient, which was founded in 2013, makes analytical software that helps physicians make decisions about patient treatment in emergency room and intensive care situations. The FDA gave 510(k) clearance for Ambient's AWARE software platform as a Class 2 device this week.

The FDA has three classes with highest level being Class 3, which is typically used for implantable devices like pacemakers and heart valves. Dental floss is categorized as a Class 1 device. An example of a device with a Class 2 ranking is a condom.

Ambient, which licenses the core of the AWARE software from Mayo Clinic, describes it as "a clinical decision support tool."

Berning explained that means it uses algorithms to shift through massive amounts patient data, prescription reports and more to select the most important information for the clinical staff to consider during real-time treatment of patients.

"It takes a lot of administrative and IT drudgery off of the physician to allow them to focus on medical care," he said.

Ambient has 10 employees and it's based in the Mayo Clinic Biobusiness Accelerator in the Minnesota Biobusiness Center. Berning says the firm plans to add more employees within the next several months.

"We could need to double or triple our staff," he said.

Berning plans to announce the commercial availability of AWARE at the top health care software industry conference next week in Chicago.

"That's where we'll let everyone know that we are open for business," he said.

April 09, 2015

Future downtown Rochester eatery starting to hire staff

Rochester's latest Italian restaurant is starting to heat up by opening a hiring office in the empty Paine Furniture building.

The Nova Restaurant Group, led by Chef Scott Foster and Pat Woodring, is crafting its latest downtown Rochester eatery to be calledTerzhiringsign1 Terza on the ground floor of the new H3 Plaza building. They are also cooking up La Vetta, a rooftop lounge and club on seventh floor of the building.

Foster and Woodring are also the creative forces behind the nearby Pescara and Chester’s Kitchen & Bar.
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Terza is not expected to be ready to open until after Memorial Day, though a pre-opening dinner is rumored to scheduled for late May. In preparation, Nova has launched a major hiring campaign in the Paine building across Broadway from the H3 Plaza.

They are interviewing job candidates as sous chefs, line chefs and servers. The office is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through the week and noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Woodring and Foster are known for their top shelf employees. They say the goal is to hire people with the "hospitality gene" and then train them well. Prior to opening of Chester's, they spent an estimated $50,000 to $60,000 on training.

April 02, 2015

Cardio3 announces plans for IPO in the U.S.

Cardio3 Biosciences, the Belgium-based biotech firm building a manufacturing facility in downtown Rochester, has announced plans to issue stock in the U.S. Logo cardio 3

Cardio3 BioSciences, which works closely with Mayo Clinic and has its U.S. headquarters in Boston, Mass., confidentially filed  "a draft registration statement" with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission this  week about its intention.

The eight-year-old regenerative medicine company  is already publicly listed on the European stock markets of NYSE Euronext Brussels and NYSE Euronext Paris. However, issuing an IPO in the U.S. would significantly boost its finances and garner the firm a lot more attention.

Such a move could benefit Mayo Clinic, which owned 2.69 percent of Cardio3, as of March 3. Mayo Clinic first acquired equity in Cardio3  in 2007, when it licensed stem cell research by Mayo Clinic's Dr. Andre Terzic and Dr. Atta Behfar. Its cardiopoiesis technology repairs patients' hearts by re-programming their own stem cell to regenerate cardiac tissue.

This week's  statement stressed that the possibility of a Cardio3 IPO is still in the very early stages.

"The timing, number of shares and price of the proposed offering have not yet been determined," according to the firm.

This filing follows last week's financial report that showed it lost $18.1 million in 2014, up from the $15.9 million it lost in 2013.

That annual report also highlighted "a non-exclusive preferred access agreement" signed with Mayo Clinic in October that cleared the way for Cardio3 to build a facility in the City of Rochester's Minnesota BioBusiness Center building.

"With this agreement, Cardio3 BioSciences agreed to give preferred consideration for Rochester, Minnesota to the U.S. to build a manufacturing facility for the production of C-Cure, at a facility located adjacent to the campus of the Mayo Clinic, and the Mayo Clinic agreed to periodically review with Cardio3 BioSciences its portfolio of regenerative medicine technologies, including in the areas of cardiology and oncology, with a view towards future potential licensing," according to the Cardio3 report.

March 26, 2015

Cardio3 reports losing $18 million in 2014

Cardio3 released a financial report today with a lot of interesting tidbits like it's building in the Minnesota BioBusiness Center due to an agreement with Mayo Clinic.

Also it's developing a U.S. headquarters… in Boston.

Here's most of my article on this:

The Belgium-based biotech firm building a manufacturing facility in downtown Rochester reported today that it lost $18.1 million in 2014, up from the $15.9 milCardiobioscience_jpeglion it lost in 2013.

Cardio3 BioSciences, which works closely with Mayo Clinic and is taking over the fifth floor of the Minnesota BioBusiness Center, reported its financials for 2014, plus some highlights of its activities in 2015.

Cardio3 is publicly listed on the European stock markets of NYSE Euronext Brussels and NYSE Euronext Paris, although it is not traded publicly in the United States.

Mayo Clinic owned 2.69 percent of Cardio3, as of March 3. Mayo Clinic first acquired equity in Cardio3 in 2007, when it licensed stem cell research by Mayo Clinic's Dr. Andre Terzic and Dr. Atta Behfar. Its cardiopoiesis technology repairs patients' hearts by re-programming their own stem cell to regenerate cardiac tissue.

6a00d83451cc8269e201a511d8e824970c-250wiThe Hong Kong-based Medisun, which is opening an office in Rochester, owned 7.2 percent of Cardio3 on March 3.

In the years since 2007, Mayo Clinic has developed a close working relationship with the Belgian company. Mayo Clinic is participating the U.S. clinical trial of Cardio3.

"We made significant strategic, operational and financial advancements in 2014 as we seek to build C3BS into a global specialty therapeutics company," stated Cardio3 CEO Dr. Christian Homsy in the announcement.

The annual report highlighted "a non-exclusive preferred access agreement" signed with Mayo Clinic in October that cleared the way for Cardio3 to build a facility in the City of Rochester's BioBusiness Center building.

"With this agreement, Cardio3 BioSciences agreed to give preferred consideration for Rochester, Minnesota to the U.S. to build a manufacturing facility for the production of C-Cure, at a facility located adjacent to the campus of the Mayo Clinic, and the Mayo Clinic agreed to periodically review with Cardio3 BioSciences its portfolio of regenerative medicine technologies, including in the areas of cardiology and oncology, with a view towards future potential licensing," according to the Cardio3 report.

Cardio3's prototype manufacturing facility will occupy the 14,963-square-feet of space on the fifth floor of the downtown building. Mayo, which leases the fourth through eighth floors, moved its employees out of the fifth floor earlier this year. Cardio3's five-year lease calls for it to pay a rent of $18 per square foot, or $22,444.50, per month. The city agreed to pay for $600,000 in equipment and improvements to the space.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development also agreed to give Cardio3 a Minnesota Job Creation Fund award of $357,000, if the company invests $1.5 million in Rochester within a year and hires 33 employees within two years.

The ultimate goal of this project is for the city and RAEDI to eventually convince Cardio3 to build a 100,000-square-foot manufacturing facility with 350 employees in Rochester, according to officials at RAEDI.

However, Rochester is not the only city wooing the Belgium company. While the Rochester facility is Cardio3's first official U.S. location, the company's report show that it also has plans to build a U.S. headquarters in Boston, Mass.
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The company also reported that it's re-stating its 2013 financial reports "to reflect errors" found by PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

"After due consideration with its auditors, we decided that the shareholders convertible loans should have been accounted for as a financial debt instead of equity (previously called 'quasi equity') as originally posted in our 2013 financial statements, because the loans were convertible into a variable number of shares," according to today's statement from the company.