Looks like Rochester has a Transportation Tuesday underway this week with two events - Allegiant Air's Vote for Vacation campaign and Kwik Trip's seminar about compressed natural gas as a vehicle fuel - both scheduled.
Voting for a favorite vacation destination will put people in the running to win four years of free airfare or a free pair of round trip tickets to any Allegiant destination.
The first 100 voters will be given a $21.60 "tax break" toward their next Allegiant vacation. That's about the equivalent of how much government taxes and fees add to the cost of a round trip flight.
Since the Allegiant stop in Rochester falls on Sept. 11, Mayor Ardell Brede will speak and lead the crowd in a moment of silence at 7:46 a.m. as the Bell of Honor tolls for those who lost their lives in the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
Kwik Trip's free seminar about compressed natural gas is then scheduled from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m at the Ramada Inn Hotel & Conference Center, 1517 16th St. S.W., Rochester.
Kwik Trip will introduce compressed natural gas, or CNG, as a fueling option in Rochester at the new station being built along 19th Street Northwest by CostCo's new store.
A new fuel choice for drivers — compressed natural gas — is on its way to Rochester pumps.
Kwik Trip plans to introduce compressed natural gas, or CNG, as an option at the station being built along 19th Street Northwest by CostCo's new store.
"We think this is the fuel of the future," says Ruanna Hayes, Kwik Trip's alternative fuels project coordinator.
To introduce CNG here, Kwik Trip is sponsoring a public information seminar on Sept. 11 with a panel discussion and speakers from area companies like McNeilus Truck and Nuss Truck & Equipment. Converting vehicles, return on investment, safety and other topics will be discussed.
The CNG seminar is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m on Sept. 11 at the Ramada of Rochester at 1517 16th St. S.W. For more information or to register to attend, call 1-855-710-300 or send email to KTBeyondGreen@kwiktrip.com.
"We thought this would be a good way for us to reach out to our customers in the Rochester area," says Hayes. "This is a way to educate people and show that CNG can be a practical solution for fleet use and also for personal use."
Kwik Trip expects its new 19th Street station to open in mid-November. The CNG dispenser will be paired with the diesel pumps at a heavy-duty fueling island apart from the gas pumps.
CNG is significantly less expensive than gasoline or diesel. Currently, Kwik Trip sells it for between $1.59 to $1.79, says Hayes. That's about $2 cheaper than a gallon of gasoline.
It also produces less emissions than standard fuels and is said to create less wear on engines. However, CNG vehicles cost significantly more than standard ones.
The U.S. Dept. of Energy estimates that about 112,000 vehicles on U.S. roads run on CNG. That number has been growing by about 3.7 percent a year, since 2000.
Large fleet vehicles, like garbage trucks, buses, cement mixers and shuttle vans, are currently the majority of vehicles adapted to use natural gas. Honda is the only car maker currently selling a model that uses CNG. However, some passenger cars and vans can be converted to use it.
Here's some from my take on RAEDI's annual meeting yesterday. Lots of info. This is the kind of deal where I can only skim the surface for article.
The medical potential of a regenerative medicine cluster in Rochester dazzled local leaders with words like "magic" and "science fiction," but business growth and jobs were the bottom line at the annual meeting of Rochester Economic Development Inc. on Tuesday.
Representatives of three companies already in operation in Rochester — ReGen Theranostics, Mill Creek Life Sciences and Cardio3 — described how they're making strides toward treating heart disease and other illnesses by injecting cells that regrow damaged tissue.
Dr. Andre Terzic, the director for Mayo Clinic's new Center for Regenerative Medicine, said the way a person's skin heals from a cut is an example of how the body regenerates to heal itself.
But regenerative medicine aims to go beyond that to use the body's natural ability to repair and protect to create new treatments to combat a variety disease and medical conditions.
"These are very exciting times. This is no longer science fiction," he said. "This is no longer just on paper."
Several companies focused on regenerative medicine, many with aid from RAEDI and the City of Rochester, have already put down roots in the Minnesota BioBusiness Center in the past few years.
• Cardio3 is a Belgium-based biotech company working on treating cardiac disease by using a patient's own stem cells to repair or regenerate the heart. Its treatment is based on the research of Dr. Terzic and Dr. Atta Behfar, both of Mayo Clinic. It has based its U.S. headquarters in Rochester.
• Mill Creek Life Sciences is a Rochester company that manufactures a protein-enriched fluid to help grow stem cells and primary cells used in regenerative therapy. Cardio3 is a Mill Creek customer.
• ReGen Theranostics is a Rochester firm that re-engineers human skin cell samples to create stem-cell lines to be used for medical research.
• Mayo Medical Ventures is a for-profit arm of Mayo Clinic that licenses its intellectual property to companies as well as launches its own businesses based on the research and technologies.
I feel compelled to confess that I did not have very high expectations when I walked into the Rochester Area Builders meeting last night to cover the president of Marvin Windows talk about the economy.
However, I quickly upgraded my attitude as Susan Marvin began her engaging and interesting presentation.
Here's part of what I wrote for today's paper. Thanks to Mike Pruett of MLT for the pics.
People, community and commitment are the basic building blocks to create a foundation for a business to weather any economic storm and even grow during tough times.
Susan Marvin, president of the popular and successful Marvin Windows and Doors of Warroad, Minn, shared her 100-year-old, family-owned company's philosophy at the Rochester Area Builders annual meeting Tuesday night.
"We serve all of our stakeholders — our employees, our customers and the community," she told the attentive crowd of more than 200 at the Rochester International Events Center.
Marvin and her straightforward approach to business and opinions on the economy hit the national stage in the fall, when the New York Times wrote about her and the international window-making company based in a small Minnesota town of just 1,700 people.
The story generated an "incredible response" across the country and soon Marvin was appearing on CNN, Bloomberg Television and even President Obama discussing the window-making company during a speech.
"It is a story people were hungry to hear," she said.
While she describes a simple business approach, Marvin acknowledges that is not easy one.
"The last few years have been very tough. The economy went into recession and the home building industry went into a depression, one deeper than the Great Depression, with unemployment in our industry hitting 30 percent at one point," she said.
While her family's company was in a very strong position with money on hand and no debt when the worst of the home construction slump started in 2009, she and her siblings realized they had to make some changes.
"We realized immediately that we had to do everything differently," she said.
The Marvin family's first decision was a key one. The company would not cut any employees.
"While a layoff would have been easier, the community would have been devastated," she told the crowd. "We kept the people, but cut everything else — wages, bonuses, travel reimbursements, 401(k)s — everything that didn't contribute to the bottom line."
Marvin Windows employs about 4,300 people, 2,000 of whom work in the small northern Minnesota town of Warroad, where her grandfather founded a lumber yard in 1904.
The town and the company are intertwined. In fact, her father originally turned the family lumberyard to making windows during World War II to help create jobs for returning GIs.
"The strength of the company is the community. It is … an incredible relationship," Marvin said.
However, cutting expenses to the bone to keep from letting workers go was not easy.
"It was a team effort, though not everyone liked it. But they were willing to do that rather than see their neighbor lose their job," she said.
Keeping the workforce intact was not just good for Warroad. The Marvins see it as good business.
"Retention of talent is key. Experience matters," she said.
Here's a quick reminder of a couple business networking and informational events coming up tonight and Friday.
I hear a scavanger hunt is slated for tonight's bash at Olmsted National Bank, so watching the Med City's business leaders scurrying around the building is probably reason enough to stop by.
And of course, there will be the food, a cash bar and business networking. I plan on being there, so stop me and tell me what local business news I've missed or messed up lately. Heh.
Both events are sponsored by the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce.
Business After Hours, a monthly business networking event sponsored by the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, is scheduled from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Olmsted National Bank, Suite 101, 975 34 Ave. N.W. Olmsted National is co-hosting the event with the Crown Restaurant & Lounge.
FRIDAY, JAN. 19
• The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a breakfast preview of the 2012 Minnesota Legislative session with state lawmakers from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the Rochester Marriott Hotel at 101 First Ave. S.W. Officials scheduled to take part in the event include: Deputy Majority Leader Sen. Geoff Michel; Majority Leader Sen. David Senjem; Minority Leader Rep. Paul Thissen: Sen. Carla Nelson, Rep. Tina Liebling, Rep. Kim Norton, Rep. Duane Quam and Rep. Mike Benson. The cost is $25 for member and $35 for non-members.
The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce's annual member celebration drew a big crowd Thursday as business leaders packed the Rochester International Event Center.
Outgoing Chamber board chair Melissa Brinkman of Custom Alarm handed over the reins of power to Alan De Keyrel of CWS.
Here's the story I scribbled out about the event.
The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce's political priorities for the coming year were made clear at its annual member celebration Thursday night.
"There is no political agenda item that we are more committed to as an organization than the passing of the extension of the local sales tax," chamber president John Wade told the crowd of business leaders filling the Rochester International Event Center.
He said the renewal of the sales tax in November 2012 would fuel a boost to the local economy and benefit Rochester's schools, libraries, infrastructure and more.
The tens of millions of dollars generated by the tax will help leverage hundreds of millions in private sector investment, Wade said.
"Trust me, I can give you a whole list of taxes I don't like. This one is good for business," he said. "I believe in my core that this one is good for business."
To lead the drive toward the passage of the sales tax extension, the chamber is launching a new committee.
Former Rochester school superintendent Jerry Williams will be the chairman of the new group. He also was presented with the President's Award for community service.
Williams accepted both the job and the award.
"As I look out amongst the group here, there are so many of you who have given service of self to this marvelously amazing community," he said looking at the tables full of the local leaders. "To those of you who give so generously of your time, talents and efforts for this marvelous community, I share this with you. I am deeply, deeply appreciative."
While the sales tax extension tops the chamber's political wish list, the expansion of the Mayo Civic Center remains a goal, but is not a pressing one, Wade said.
"Our hospitality industry knows how important the expansion of the civic center is," he said. "But it has to be done at the right time in the right way."
While the presentation to Williams was the most dramatic of the night, it was not the only award given out.
• Business of the Year: Creative Cuisine, the company behind many popular Rochester restaurants that includes Newt's, City Cafe, City Market, 300 First and the recently revived Redwood Room.
Brothers Dave and Mark Currie accepted the award.
• Chamber Volunteer of the Year: Jaimi Stejskal-Kent of Broadway Residence & Suites by Bridgestreet won the award for her work with the chamber.
• The Lamp of Knowledge award: The annual award for outstanding work with education was presented to Wendy Shannon, superintendent of the Byron Public School system.
• Chamber Ambassador of the Year award: After reciting her long list of accomplishments with the chamber's Ambassador program, the award went to Karen Hanson of Home Instead Senior Care.
Rochester's Good Food Store Co-op and the La Crosse People’s Food Co‐op are preparing for upcoming member votes of a proposal to merge the two cooperatives.
Voting will take place in August. Ballots should arrive in mailboxes by about Aug. 1 and voting will wrap up by Aug. 15.
This proposed merger would clear the way for a plan to move and expand the Good Food Store to anchor a downtown Rochester development.
Many members turned out for meetings this week to speak for and against the plan.
Look for Mayo Clinic to build a 60,000-square-foot computer data center onto its Mayo Support Center in northwest Rochester this fall.
Building permits filed with the city show the center being added to the north side of the complex. The plans also mark off additional expansions to that area titled, Phase II and Phase III.
Mayo Clinic confirms the plans, but is not releasing any details about the data center at this point. It still requires city approval before it can start.
The project is on the agenda for Wednesday's City Planning and Zoning Commission. Mayo Clinic is asking for a Conditional Use Permit for the "Substantial Land Alteration" to prepare the ground for the expansion.
A Rochester restaurant is readying to roll this summer.
The Maid-Rite Diner is going mobile with a new lunch truck. Don Sanford — Mr. Maid-Rite — plans to take his diner's loose meat hamburgers and hot dogs directly to the Med City's lunch crowd.
"Work is starting next week on my new truck. It'll be called the Maid-Rite Lunch Box," he says.
The plan is to cruise the truck to construction sites, offices or wherever to take orders, cook them up and serve hamburgers, hot dogs and chips.
"With gas at $4 a gallon, I think it will be a good deal for people who don't want to drive for lunch," he says.
Sanford already has a license from the state of Minnesota, which will allow him to sell food from the truck on private property, like a company giving him permission to cook and sell in their parking lot.
"If I pull off the street, I'm fine," Sanford says.
City streets, however, are another story. At tonight's meeting, the Rochester City Council will discuss whether to issue a permit to allow the Maid-Rite Lunch Box to pull over anywhere and set up shop.
Sanford hopes the council will OK that, but he'll take the diner to the streets no matter what this summer, probably starting in June.
While a pair of staffers will run the lunch truck, he'll also have a Maid-Rite concession trailer working county fairs and festivals in the area.
And, of course, the original diner that he opened last year with his wife, Noreen Sanford, and their daughter, Reann Blumers, will keep cooking in Rochester's Crossroads Plaza.
"We've got some exciting stuff going on," he says.