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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."

New Honda dealership to start up Monday

It has that fresh new dealership smell.

After almost a year of work, Tom Kadlec Honda is ready to move into its brand new dealership at 3333 Wilder Road NW, west of U.S. 14 and east of West Circle Drive. General ManageNewhondasignr Tyler Kadlec expects to open the doors of the 55,000-square-foot dealership at 6:30 a.m. Monday.

It will have about about 500 to 525 vehicles on display on the lot with about 100 employees staffing the dealership.

"We're ready to go," said Kadlec, while walking through the new showroom earlier this week. He and his brother, controller Tony Kadlec, are the second generation of Kadlecs to sell cars in Rochester.

Both service and sales departments are expected to be up and running in the new location, which is "almost triple the size" of the longtime location at 4444 U.S. 52 North on Rochester's "Car Row."

But don't expect that dealership to stay empty for long. Kadlec has signed a purchase agreement with Twin Cities-based Luther Automotive to acquire Kia of Rochester. Luther's Park Place Motors currently handles Kia at its 2720 U.S. 52 North location.

No one at Luther was available Thursday to discuss the deal.

Tyler Kadlec said he hopes to wrap up that transaction by the end of the month and then move Kia into Honda's former home. The plan is to have about 25 on staff at Tom Kadlec Kia.

Kaldec expects to have about 150 to 200 new Kias and 150 to 200 used vehicles on the lot.

At the new Honda dealership, the Kadlec family is adding some new touches to its 36-year history of selling cars in Rochester.

The new dealership has several comfortable lounge areas as well as several computers for customers to use. There also is a separate area for customers to use for business calls.

Later this summer, the dealership also will have its own dog park, with canine-friendly turf for customers to use.

"Historically, car dealerships have not been places people enjoyed being at," Tyler Kadlec said. "We're hoping to change that."

April 24, 2015

Shorewood senior complex to add health, wellness center

A senior living complex in southwest Rochester is adding a more than $2 million health and wellness center to its complex.
Shorewood
Construction started this week at Shorewood Senior Campus, at 2115 Second St. SW, on the more than 11,000-square-foot center, which will include a warm-water pool, exercise areas and therapy rooms. It's being added on the south side of the complex, near the main entrance.

Campus Director Eric Huntoon estimates the new addition should be completed by late September or October.
 
"We're going to try to incorporate some interdisciplinary type therapies, like acupuncture, massage therapy, podiatry, physical therapy and things of that nature," he said. "This is an opportunity to provide an additional outlet for our residents."

Huntoon said it also could help Shorewood residents prevent falls, since pool therapy helps improve balance, strength and range of motion.

The new center also will include a very specialized therapy pool called Hydroworx, which includes a platform treadmill that lowers into the water. Many professional athletes use it to recover from knee injuries. Shorewood plans to reach out to area high schools about possibly allowing high school athletes to use it.

Shorewood, which is managed by Minneapolis-based Silvercrest, has 229 apartments — 155 for senior living, 61 for assisted living and 13 for memory care.

Huntoon acknowledged the senior-housing market is becoming much more competitive in Rochester with the recent openings of Waters on Mayowood and River Bend Assisted Living. However, Shorewood has been full to capacity for the past 18 months and has a waiting list.

"With so many people turning 65 in the U.S., demand is certainly going to be outpacing the supply," he said.

April 22, 2015

Mayo Clinic to expand Saint Marys power plant

As part of Mayo Clinic's ongoing growth in Rochester, work has started on a project to expand the Saint Marys Campus' power plant. St_Marys_Hospital,_Rochester,_stone_marker

“The project will include a 5,000-square-foot addition onto the south side of the power plant at the Saint Marys Campus to increase plant cooling capacity," according to Kelley Luckstein, of Mayo Clinic.

The addition is needed to create space for a chiller and associated pumps and piping.

Grading for the project began recently. Luckstein estimates it will be completed by February 2016.

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 21, 2015

KTTC-TV disappears from DirecTV lineup

Area DirecTV customers were surprised to find the Rochester NBC affiliate, KTTC, dark this morning, due to a contract issue.

Customers trying to tune into KTTC were met with this message: "The owner of this channel has removed it from our DirecTV lineup, despite our repeated requests to keep it available to you."

KTTC posted a news article this morning that said DirecTV had removed their station "as the result of the expiration of an extension which was in place while we were negotiating a new carriage agreement with them."

No one was available at DirecTV or KTTC to discuss this issue this morning.

The Rochester station made this CDHU_0KUEAARhtUstatement in their news article:

"KTTC and its parent company, Quincy Newspapers Inc., are in contact with DirecTV and are working hard to resolve the matter so DirecTV will return KTTC to their system. We realize this is a significant inconvenience for our viewers."

KTTC is in not the only regional station owned by Illinois-based Quincy Newspapers to disappear from DirecTV last night. Also pulled do to the dispute were WKOW-TV, an ABC affiliate in in Madison, Wis., and KWWL-TV, an NBC affiliate in Waterloo, Iowa.

DirecTV has a general statement about such disputes on its website:

"When contract disputes arise over station owners’ unnecessary increases in what you should pay for these free over-the-air stations, DirecTV will never remove them from your lineup. Period. Station owners may try to avoid their responsibilities to you, but make no mistake: the station owners are the only ones who can decide to take away your local stations."

April 20, 2015

Tech duo boots up new Rochester computer shop with 3D twist

A pair of tech expects have opened the doors of a new computer retail and repair plus 3-D printing shop in northwest Rochester

Darwin Kock and co-owner/manager Phil Rodriquez booted up PCz Unlimited on April 9 at 4208 U.S. 52 North in the Rochester Shopping Center. The 1,000-square-foot store is tucked in between Farrell’s Extreme Bodyshaping and Harbor Freight Tools.

Darci Fenske of Paramark Real Estate brokered the deal between the landlord and tenant.

PCz Unlimited sells new computers and accessories as well as offering an extensive array of repair services as well as building custom-made machines. The business is geared toward small business customers and individual users.

"We can fix just about everything," said Rodriquez. "I'm Apple certified, so I repair Apple machines and PCs. We can do system upgrades, data recovery, virus removal and remote support. We can fix iPhones, iPads or whatever."

The shop's offerings go beyond just the traditional computer products.

"We offering some tech that's hard find to in Rochester right now, 3-D printers" said Kock. "What we're trying to do bring the technology to the Midwest that it currently lacks. Nobody's carrying this on their shelves now."

In addition to Rodriquez, the pair expect to add at least part-time employee soon.

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 14, 2015

New barbecue place is cooking in southwest Rochester

The smoke signals say that a new flavor is on the way for southwest Rochester.

Dickey's Barbecue Pit is slated to fill the remaining 2,000-square-feet of the new Aspen Dental building at 1300 Salem Road SW in front of the TJ Maxx Plaza, says franchise oDickeysaspenwner Josh Laber.

Dickey's is a quick casual chain known for its smoked meats and Texas-style barbecue. The Dallas, Texas-based restaurant firm has about 470 restaurants in U.S. with eight in Minnesota.

"We're hoping to be able to open the doors by mid-summer," said Laber.

He'll be ready to launch "his second career" as soon as he wraps up his current one with the Rochester Police Dept. Laber has served as a Rochester police officer for the past nine years. He's slated to work his last shift as an officer this week.

While Rochester does already have several barbecue choices with Roscoe's, John Hardy's and Famous Dave's, the Labers believe Dickey's brings something new to the mix.

"My wife and I (Natashya) have been looking for something for the past few years. We always thought something was missing," he said. "Dickey's serves up good slow cooked meat at a fast pace that's good for the lunch crowd and for dinner."

Now the Labers and their five children cooking up a new restaurant, which will have its own drive-through window. They estimate that they'll need about 20 employees to staff the new Dickey's.

Expect to see Josh Laber at Dickey's as the owner and operator. Natashya Laber will continue to teach at John Marshall High School. Laber said he knows he has a lot of work ahead of him, but at least it will now be for his own business.

The Aspen Dental building is owned by Rochester's Forsons Investments, which also owns the TJ Maxx Plaza.

April 10, 2015

Bank is gearing up to open 2nd Rochester branch

Manufacturers Bank & Trust Co. expects to open its second Rochester branch soon.

Construction crew are busy working on revamping the former America's Mattress building at 4408 U.S. 52 N.W.

"We hope to be in there at least by the end of May, if not before," said Tom Heepke, the bank's community president.

MBTbranchMBT will lease the 2,800-square-foot building from Rochester developer Jeff Brown. Mike Haley of Braasch Commercial Real Estate handled the deal.

The Forest City, Iowa-based bank opened its first Rochester branch at 2020 Second St. S.W. in 2012. That branch will remain open. Heepke said MBT's Rochester business has just grown beyond the one branch.

"This new one will also be a full branch, but it will also have a drive-up window. We're pretty excited about that," he said.

Heepke estimates that the new branch could potentially have five on staff. It will be managed by Andy Mai.

America's Mattress moved out of the building earlier this year to join the Furniture Superstore Factory Outlet in the former Menards store building at 5150 U.S. 52 North.