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11 posts categorized "Environmental biz"

June 26, 2014

Knutson lands $17.3M contract to upgrade Rochester MnDOT complex

A Minnesota construction firm with a large Rochester-based office and team won the $17.3 million contract to renovate the MnDOT District 6 headquarters.

Minneapolis-based Knutson Construction was chosen last week as the "best value" contractor for the third phase of the major upgrade of the MnDOT and State Highway Patrol facilities at 2900 48th St. N.W.

MnDOT_Rendering-600x330Knutson will add a new 911 call center, a new data area, a lab to test road materials as well as conference rooms and offices to the older MnDOT building. Plans also call for installing solar panels and a new mezzanine.

Construction is slated to start on July 14 and should wrap up in October 2015, said Knutson senior project manager Derek O’Connor.

The construction team will be led by O’Connor. Others working on the project include: superintendent Sean Dols, assistant project engineer Mike Johnson, and project assistant Amy Jansen.

"We are excited to continue our relationship with MnDOT,” stated Dave Bastyr, Knutson's executive vice president of Minnesota operations.

Knutson was also in charge of the second of this District 6 project, construction of a new 122,000-square-foot maintenance facility, in 2011 to 2012. That was a $19.8 million contract for that phase.

In the past four years, Knutson has won 13 such best value contracts, including building the new City of Rochester Fire Station #2. It will replace the current one by Silver Lake. The new $7.7 million emergency center is being built on Viola Road in the Century Heights area. It's expected to be ready to use by February 2015.

Knutson opened its Rochester office in 1997, though it has a long history working on high-profile projects here. It built the original IBM facility in 1956 as well as Mayo Clinic's Gonda Building, the Ronald McDonald House and Hope Lodge.

March 26, 2014

Area manufacturer to expand, add 14 jobs

A long-time southern Minnesota manufacturer says a $215,000 state tax credits based on adding more jobs helped convince it to expand here rather than on the West Coast.

M60stdHarmony Enterprises, which makes and services recycling and waste management equipment in the small town of Harmony, are one of five companies chosen for the new Minnesota Job Creation Fund program. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development announced the the first round of businesses on Tuesday.

If Harmony Enterprises does as it has pledged and adds 14 new jobs to its current staff of 60 plus builds a $1.1 million expansion within two years, it will receive the $215,000 in tax credits over four years. The manufacturer, which also has a location in France, has been based in Harmony since 1962.

Owner and President Steve Cremer says the company has been growing quickly in the past few years and more growth appears to be on the way, particularly in Africa and Asia. That prospect had Harmony Enterprises considering its options on how expand its production. With so many of the firms competitors and customers located on the West Coast, they start looking at the possibility of adding a facility in California or Arizona.Bcb2003-open


Then they found out about the $24 million Minnesota Job Creation Fund, which began in January.

"We wanted to stay here. The community is good to us," said Cremer. "Now we'll start construction of a 6,000-square-foot addition in the spring."

The plan is to create a new drive-through shipping department, which will improve efficiency for the company and open up the current shipping area to revamped into more production space.

In addition to the improved shipping and the expanding production area, Harmony Enterprises is also ramping up its new service offerings. About a year and half ago, it launched a new service business. It contracts directly with companies to maintain and repair all recycling and waste management machines.

"That's our really big growth area. Many of the new jobs will be service jobs," he says.

September 12, 2012

Roch. family cruising along without gasoline

Here's some from the two stories I had today about the Camerons who drive a Honda Civic that runs on compressed natural gas instead of gasoline.

This is a follow-up to Kwik Trip's announcement that it have a CNG pump at its new store on Rochester's 19th Street Northwest.

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5945166EAt first glance, the Cameron family's 2012 Honda Civic looks the same as any other Civic.

However, this car has never used a single drop of gasoline and is the only one of its kind in Rochester.

A little logo  — "CNG"  — on the trunk tells the story. The car that Karen Cameron drives to work and to take her seventh-grade daughter to school events runs on compressed national gas.

It's the only factory-built model available in the U.S., though a wide selection of large trucks, vans and buses are in made by Ford, General Motors and even McNeilus Trucks in Dodge Center.

Compressed natural gas costs about half of what drivers are paying for a comparable gallon of gasoline. It burns much cleaner, releasing only about a tenth of the carbon emissions into the air that gasoline or diesel does.

CNG is also plentiful in the United States, with a supply that is estimated to last more than 100 years without importing any from other countries.

5945172EThose are the aspects that excite Graham Cameron and his son, Ian Cameron, who are both enthusiastic proponents of alternate fuels and technology like geothermal heat pumps and solar power systems.

"But my wife is a different story. She doesn't get into this like Ian and I do," says Graham Cameron. "I'm surprised by how quickly she accepted it. The bottom line is that she loves it."

Karen Cameron acknowledges that buying the car in April wasn't really something she was excited about.

"I was a little bit of a naysayer because of the extra up front costs" — about $6,000 more than a standard Civic plus about $6,000 for the garage fueling system installed by K&S Heating, she says.

Then she started the driving the car. It doesn't feel any different, and it is much quieter than its more plentiful gasoline-burning siblings. It goes 250 miles on a tank of CNG, which the Camerons fill by locking on a nozzle and letting it pump overnight.

Karen Cameron has driven 8,000 to 9,000 miles in the past six months without once filling at gasoline pumps, although she did use a CNG pump in the Twin Cities once.

"It has been great," she says.

April 26, 2012

New eco-friendly auto repair shop growing fast

It looks like work on the new Joe's Auto Care on Civic Center Drive is really speeding along this week.

In case you don't remember, I wrote about this project a couple of months ago.

Here's some from that column as a refresher:

Look for a new automotive repair center with an eco-friendly focus to sprout up in northwest Rochester.

04242012joesautocareJoe Peter plans to plant a new 55,000-square-foot repair center at 1420 Civic Center Drive, after the former Valvoline Oil Change building on the site is demolished and cleared away.

Longtime Rochester food fans might remember the history of that spot. Peter says he's been told that's where the legendary Henry's Hamburgers stand was located.

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Peter's plan is to build this second repair shop to complement his nearby Joe's Auto Care that is tucked away at 923 Sixth St. N.W., near the People's Cooperative/Good Food Store grocery.

The pair of repair centers will both be branded as Joe's Auto Care, though the new one will probably have a slightly different name to show its commitment to using products and procedures that are environmentally friendly.

July 26, 2011

IBM's weather forecasting system gets rained on

Here's some from an interesting piece by William Pentland (who looks a lot like Thomas Dolby) on Forbes.com's Clean Beta energy blog.

Deep+thunder Basically, using utility giant Con Edison as his example, the piece calls the effectiveness of IBM's super-duper weather forecasting program called Deep Thunder. (Whoever names stuff at IBM must have a fun job. Heh)

I point this out mainly because a 2010 case study by IBM says at that time, Deep Thunder was running on an IBM System P server at the IBM Data Center in Rochester.

I wonder how KTTC's Randy Brock would fare in a head-to-head weather forecast cage match? I bet he'd do better than those guys did on Jeopardy! against IBM's Watson.

Anyway, here some from Pentland's piece:

Deep Thunder couples high-resolution weather forecasts with business processes to enhance operational planning and facilitate efficient and effective decision making processes. Or, as IBM puts it: “It is not about weather but integrating forecasts into decision making to optimize business processes.”

In 2001, a prototype was pioneered to provide 24-hour forecasts for the New York City area at 1 kilometer resolution twice daily. More recently, IBM has extended the Deep Thunder platform for forecasting local weather conditions in Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, Baltimore and Washington D.C. and other metropolitan areas.

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The big question for IBM is whether Deep Thunder delivers on its promise.  At least one high-profile customer, Consolidated Edison of New York, has concluded that it does not.

Here's what Con Ed said in 2008:

3650853-illustration-of-dark-cloud-icon-with-lightnings-underneath [Con Edison] has initiated a project with IBM to apply IBM’s Deep Thunder technology to the problem of forecasting weather-caused damage at a micro-geographic level. The goal . . . is to develop and integrate more precise weather forecasting capability into our emergency response management utilizing finer resolution forecasting models. The training of key operations and planning personnel commenced on June 1, 2008 and continues as the application is modified. The Deep Thunder forecasting model is being included as appropriate in operational decisions to continue to test against real time weather data for accuracy and refinement. We are now developing the specifications and implementation for specific customizations of the current Deep Thunder capability to enable the Company to evaluate “predicted” overhead system damage based on Deep Thunder enhanced weather forecasts.

Then this is a follow up report more than two years later:

“[i]nvestigation into integrating the Deep Thunder micro-weather modeling system with the STAR system determined that it is not feasible with the current software . . The [Deep Thunder] predictive model has proved to be no more accurate than the existing static matrix currently in use. The model’s usefulness is limited and no further modifications are anticipated.”

September 21, 2010

Changes @ Kardia and BioBiz Center

Here's some from a piece I wrote about Kardia Health Systems' restructuring and what it means for the Minnesota BioBusiness Center where the company leases 7,435 square feet.The full article is posted here.

Kardia licenses technology from Mayo Clinic.

Rochester Developer Gus Chafoulias is at the helm of Kardia.

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A Rochester medical imaging firm based on Mayo Clinic research is reinventing itself and that means it needs to change its lease in the Minnesota Biobusiness Center.

Kardia-Logo-J260W The Rochester City Council OK'd changes to Kardia Health Systems'  five-year lease it signed in 2008 for 7,435 square feet of space on third floor on the Biobusiness Center, 221 First Ave. S.W.

That lease started at $14.75 per square foot for the first year and increased by 4 percent each year, culminating at $17.25 in 2013. The company also received a a $75,000 interest-free loan from the city to cover finishing costs to prepare the space for use.

Now changes mean Kardia no longer needs the space.

"Kardia has undergone internal restructuring and has become a virtual company with its principal employees located in Minneapolis and Denver," according to a request submitted to the city council.

It markets Internet-based software services used primarily by cardiologists to study data from echocardiogram tests. Kardia licenses technology from Mayo Clinic, which also owns equity in the company.

051509biobusinesscenteratnightWhile the medical imaging services firm will not need the Biobusiness Center, another related company — Strategic Medical Innovation Partners — is interested in taking over some of the office space. Strategic Medical, formerly known as Healthcare IPP Partners, is owned by many of Kardia's lead investors.

Kardia is asking that the Rochester-based Titan Development Group, led by local business developers Gus and Andy Chafoulias, be allowed to sub-lease any space that Strategic Medical does not use.

Gus Chafoulias is an investor in Kardia as well as serving as the chairman of its board of directors.

"Parts of Kardia will still be here and parts will be virtual," says Chafoulias, who has an office in that part of of the building.

Chafoulias says the Titan Development staff is moving from their current offices by the Rochester International Airport into the Kardia space.

August 10, 2010

Cascade Meadows photos, request for more construction pics

Cascademeadowsbanks2 Remember last week when I posted a crude construction update snapshot of the Cascade Meadow Wetlands and Environmental Science Center off of Rochester's 19th Street Northwest?Cascademeadowsbanks1

 Well, long-time Kiger's Notebook contributor Josh Banks sent me some real photos of the project as well as one of the dirt moving at the Lourdes High School construction site.

Way to show me up, Josh. Heh.

Lourdeshighschoolbanks Josh has always snapped great shots around the area for this blog.

It looks like he is stepping that up with Banks Photography.

I thought I'd share the pics he sent me and open up the invitation to everyone else to help me document construction and demolition projects in the area.

I'd love to see any pics you feel like sharing. If I use any photo for the blog, Facebook, print or elsewhere, I will attribute the photo to whoever took it and shared it with me.

August 04, 2010

Wetlands center growing like a weed

It looks like the new Cascade Meadow Wetlands and Environmental Science Center is growing like a weed in the field near the Rochester Athletic Club off of Rochester's 19th Street Northwest.

08042010wetlandscenter As I was out and about today, I snapped a pic from the backside of the complex that is shaping up fast

Mike Benike is the project manager for the project. It is being built by Rochester general contractor, Alvin E. Benike Inc.

Here's how Mike Benike described the building in an interview for the Post-Bulletin's Green Space column in January.

At 16,000 square feet, the building will be compact. It will have solar panels on the ground, solar hot water tanks outside to show how they would work in a commercial or residential building and a man-made lake for geothermal heating and cooling, Benike said.

The building will use 50 percent less energy compared to a standard building and more than 7 percent of its energy will come from renewable sources on site.

July 14, 2010

Enviro-friendly building designer heats things up

Here's some from an article I have on Christian Milaster and his Be!Cause Group. The full piece is posted here.

The puzzle of building an environmentally friendly home that is economically reasonable and still comfortable is a challenge.

"We looked around quite a bit," says Shalise Keating. "We're concerned about the environment and we want to do our piece."

82cj77xxhnvfsf71420108415 In the end, Keating and her partner, Jill Kelly, turned to local engineer Christian Milaster and his Be!Cause Group to create a plan for their Fillmore County home.

"I think he does a better job of putting all of the pieces of together than anyone else we've found," Keating says as their 4,200-square-foot, three-story house is being built in Fillmore County.

It will be heated by the sun, and all of its water will be provided from a 20,000-gallon cistern.

Creating such plans was not something Milaster ever imagined he'd be doing when he moved to the United States from Germany in 1998.

However, looking back, he says it's not surprising that as an engineer he "stumbled" into the field.

After visiting Dream Acreas, an organic farm in Wykoff, Milaster was fascinated by the completely sustainable, off-the-grid lifestyle.

"The idea of sustainable living appealed to my engineer mind," he says.

After two years of research, he built his own sustainable home in rural Lanesboro that he playfully named Project Licht 'n Stein.

"I wanted to create the smallest energy footprint possible without losing any comfort. I like living a completely modern lifestyle with wireless Internet and hot water," he says.

After moving into his solar-heated house, with its $100 a year utility bills, Milaster started hosting open houses to share what he had learned building his rural homestead with a home theater and whole-house stereo system.

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Open house
Christian Milaster is hosting another open house for his Project Licht 'n Stein home in rural Lanesboro from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
The house at 100 Hidden Valley Drive is about 45 minutes from Rochester.

For more information and directions, visit his website.

June 17, 2010

New company moves into Elgin Industrial Park

A new company - Nationwide DI Water Solutions - is charging up in Elgin's Industrial Park.

Owner Bruce Iverson opened the specialty service business in a new 9,000-square-foot building on June 1.

To jump-start the start-up, the City of Elgin gave him a low-interest loan of $20,000 and People's Cooperative Services, the rural power company, made another loan of $30,500.

The Rochester-based People's owns the industrial park in Elgin.

Iverson describes his operation as a regeneration facility. Nationwide DI re-charges the deionization resin used in electrical discharge machining used in  the manufacture of appliances, medical devices, aerospace materials and automotive parts.

"It is a niche service that only four or five companies in the country provide," Iverson says. "It is a kind of a green business allowing companies to re-use materials when the charge is gone rather than buying new."

Iverson says he has already brought two jobs to Elgin and he expects to add two to four more in the near future.