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January 28, 2015

Talk of layoffs rattles IBM workers

Talk of massive layoffs at struggling tech giant IBM hit the halls of Big Blue in Rochester today.

Lee Conrad, national coordinator of the pro-union group Alliance@IBM, said this morning that layoffs were being reported on IBM's campuses in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. However, he had not heard of any in Rochester.

"It going to be a bad day for IBM employees and their families," Conrad said.

IBM buildinglogoWhile no layoffs could be confirmed on the Rochester campus, IBM did concede this week that "several thousand" job cuts were coming as it refuted a Forbes column claiming 26 percent of the firm's employees would be laid off.

"IBM does not comment on rumors, even ridiculous or baseless ones," said IBM spokesman Doug Shelton. "If anyone had checked information readily available from our public earnings statements, or had simply asked us, they would know that IBM has already announced the company has just taken a $600 million charge for workforce rebalancing. This equates to several thousand people, a small fraction of what's been reported."

Shelton's comments were in reaction to a Forbes article by tech columnist Robert X. Cringely. Cringely recently reported IBM planned to lay off 26 percent of its workforce, about 110,000 people, in an operation codenamed "Project Chrome."

"I’ve been hearing since before Christmas about Project Chrome, the code name for what has been touted to me as the biggest reorganization in IBM history. Well, Project Chrome is finally upon us, triggered I suppose by this week’s announcement of an 11th consecutive quarter of declining revenue for IBM. Project Chrome is bad news, not good. Customers and employees alike should expect the worst," he wrote.

Alliance@IBM, put out a statement that it did not believe the layoffs would be as extensive as Cringley is predicting.

"The Alliance has no information that this is true, and we are urging caution on reporting this number as fact. But as you all know, anything can happen at IBM anymore, and this is the time of year that IBM cuts jobs," Conrad wrote.

He followed that note with another one on Tuesday, which said inside sources were saying this round of layoffs would occur today and Thursday.

In recent years, IBM has dramatically reduced its presence in Rochester. Once topping out at more than 8,000 employees in the 1990s, an unofficial data "snapshot" calculated 2,300 full-time IBM employees working in Rochester today.

Since 2008, IBM has refused to release specific employee numbers at its campuses. However, it is still considered Rochester's second-largest private employer.

IBM Rochester has emptied several buildings on its campus and leased them to tenants such as Charter Communications and HGST.

January 27, 2015

Mayo looks to attract more patients from China

To take advantage of the rapidly growing medical tourism market, Mayo Clinic has deepened its relationship with a Hong Kong firm to bring more Chinese patients to Rochester.

Medisun Holdings Ltd. announced Monday it has signed a collaLogoborative deal to "Ensure efficient referral of patients" to Mayo Clinic. The agreement also calls for Mayo Clinic "to provide health care consulting services to aid Medisun’s work" in Hong Kong and mainland China.

This will allow Mayo Clinic to enlarge its patient pipeline from China. It has added a Web page in Mandarin Chinese and has hired interpreters, the article notes. The Wall Street Journal recently reported increasing numbers of Chinese residents are going overseas "in search of treatment that is either unavailable or ineffective in China."
800px-Gonda_building,_closer_up
Mikel Prieto, medical director of Mayo Clinic's international office, told the Wall Street Journal that "China, probably of all countries, is the one where we see the greatest growth right now."

Melissa Goodwin, Mayo Clinic's manager of global referrals, told China's Caixin Media this summer the number of Chinese people going to Mayo has climbed to 200 in 2013. That's up from just 30 in 2008 and 100 in 2012. She estimated that number would reach 400 by the end of 2014. 

H3-treesDetails of the new Medisun/Mayo Clinic arrangement still are being hammered out, according to Dr. Jason Zhang, of Medisun.

Zhang did confirm that a $1 million office being built in Titan Development and Investments's new H3 Plaza complex on South Broadway will house Medisun's Rochester operations. It's being built under the name Alphaomega Healthcare, though Zhang said he expects it to eventually change to Medisun.

He explained the office will be used to support Chinese patients traveling to Rochester for treatment.

"The medical service will be provided by Mayo, and everything else will be provided by Medisun," Zhang said.

The Medisun office is expected to open in March or April in the west corner of H3 Plaza at 300 S. Broadway, he said. The office will occupy parts of the second and third floors of the seven-story complex, which is being developed by Titan's Andy and Gus Chafoulias.

“Consulting with Mayo Clinic, and leveraging Medisun’s top-quality medical institutions in Hong Kong … Medisun’s experienced medical team will facilitate access to Mayo Clinic’s world-class model of care in order to provide patients in China and Asia with superior medical services,” Medisun's Chairman Danny Wong said in Monday's announcement.
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Wong visited Rochester this summer in connection to his company's investment in Cardio3 Biosciences. Cardio3, a Belgium company with deep business and scientific ties with Mayo Clinic, is negotiating a lease deal with the City of Rochester for the fifth floor of the Minnesota Biobusiness Center.

While in Rochester, Wong had his photo taken at the clinic with local leaders, including Gus Chafoulias and Mayo's Lisa Clarke, who leads the Destination Medical Center initiative.

Wong recently showed his interest in Rochester by buying two large estates here. On Oct. 31, he bought an estate at 2515 Crest Lane SW for $1.4 million. Wong followed that up by buying a Pill Hill house at 615 10 Ave. SW for $1.31 million.

Options abound for one of Rochester's oldest storefronts

While many are speculating about the future of a 129-year-old building in the heart of Rochester's downtown, the owners say they haven't locked down a plan yet.

549b9e10ed075.imageThe long-empty former Paine Furniture store at 313 S. Broadway was purchased by local developers Hal Henderson and Grant Michelitz in November. The deal also included the attached 309 S. Broadway building now occupied by Big Brad's bar on Broadway.

Some renovation work and installation of new windows is being done on the second floor, said Henderson. They also hope to build a skyway across the alley to connect the Paine building to the 318 Commons building, also owned by Henderson and Michelitz.

The University of Minnesota Rochester leases space in the 318 Commons building for student housing, office space and classrooms. A connecting skyway could make the second floor of Paine building attractive to UMR.

"We do foresee space crunches in our growth plan prior to the development of the future campus," said Jay Hesley, assistant vice chancellor for institutional advancement. While no decisions have been made, Hesley acknowledged the university had looked at the second floor of the Paine building.

"We've certainly explored all of the different opportunities that are available, and that was certainly one of them on the list," he said.

Henderson said there have been preliminary talks with UMR officials about the Paine building. He also said an option is to demolish the Paine complex and put up a building that would be a sibling to 318 Commons.

"I do have more real estate on that block," he said. "In the future, we may have a plan that we may try to unveil or look at pretty seriously." Henderson owns the adjacent Cafe Steam at 315 S. Broadway and the Canvas & Chardonnay building at 317 S. Broadway. "It all depends on what transpires in the next three to six months" with Destination Medical Center and the university's plans, he said. "I think right now, everyone is still leaving their options open."

January 23, 2015

WSN buying empty Home Design Studio on W. Circle Drive

After being empty for years, new life is on the way for a former home construction showroom in northwest Rochester. 

Widseth Smith Nolting, a Crookston-based engineering and architecture firm, announced this week it has signed a purchase agreement to buy the former Home Design Studio from Rochester's Event Studio LLC. The 32,000-square-foot complex is located at 3777 40th Ave. NW, along West Circle Drive.

HomeDesignDusk2-10x8_editedThe sale is expected to close in March with a build-out beginning in April, according to WSN. The plan is for WSN to move its increasingly crowded Rochester office into 11,000 square feet of the building by August.

"We are absolutely shoe-horned in here," said Brian Carlson, WSN's director of business development, of their current 4,500-square-foot office at 6301 Bandel Road NW. "We need to provide the space and resources for our team members to do what they do best."

WSN opened its Med City office in 2009, when it merged with QED Engineering. In 2014, it merged with Rochester's Kane and Johnson Architects. WSN now has 20 employees based here. WSN has a total of seven offices and 200 employees in Minnesota and North Dakota

The firm plans to lease the rest of the building to other tenants, probably to other professional offices. This is a very different fate than was expected for the Home Design Studio building. It opened for the first time in 2006 at the height of the construction boom, which imploded soon after.

It was designed by Kane and Johnson Architects as a home builders' showroom with model kitchens, bathrooms and other room layouts. Lead by local contractor Jerome Bigelow, a group of 13 owners optimistically launched the operation with a grand party attended by hundreds of Rochester business leaders. It had 59 people on staff working for a variety of construction-related businesses. The last occupants moved out in April 2012.

Event Studio LLC, of Rochester, then bought the unique complex from Partnership 10, of Byron, in 2013 for $1.3 million. Event Studio lists Rochester developer Dan Penz as manager on its incorporation documents.

Then in 2014, WSN began the search for a larger space in Rochester.

"We looked at lot of different buildings all around the city. We really like this building," Carlson said. "We liked the exposure. We liked the location and the ability to have our whole team in one spot."

January 20, 2015

Rochester's Maple Manor sold for $3.5 million

The Blum family's history has been interwoven with Rochester's Maple Manor Health Care and Rehabilitation since its doors opened in late 1964. 

That changed last week, when Pat Blum retired after 36 years as an administrator, and the family sold the nursing home at 1875 19th St. NW for $3.5 million. Pritok Capital of Skokie, Ill., purchased Maple Manor. Pritok now owns seven small senior facilities across the country, including one in St. Cloud.

"It's time to step aside, but it's a sad goodbye," said Blum. "I have mixed feelings obviously. You're talking about moving on from something that has really defined me for 50-plus years of my life."

MaplemanorIt all started when Pat's parents, David and Dorothy Blum, with the help of their six sons, began managing the facility on the first day its doors opened. In fact, the whole family lived and worked there for a year as it was getting going.

"It was all hands on deck back then," said Pat Blum, laughing as he remembered telling school friends that he lived in a nursing home. "Nursing homes used have a lot more families involved in running them."

After he graduated from college and earned his administrator's license, Pat began working at Maple Manor in 1978. His parents retired in 1981.

A new administrator, Karl Swedberg, took the reins last week. He has known the Blums professionally for 17 years and is familiar with Maple Manor.

"We're really excited to be in Rochester. I don't expect any big changes immediately for residents or the staff," Swedberg said.

Maple Manor has more than 100 full-time and part-time employees on staff.

"This is a good match for us. They really 'get' it," Blum said of Pritok.

Pritok is coming into the Rochester market during a senior living building boom, with several new facilities, such as River Bend Assisted Living and The Waters on Mayowood, opening and almost all of the existing ones in the area expanding. Being near Mayo Clinic makes Rochester very attractive to the more than 77 million baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964.

While the Blums are no longer involved with Maple Manor, that doesn't mean they are done with senior care. In 1981, the Blum brothers realized when residents were discharged, "They weren't getting enough support," Pat said. That drove them to start Comfort Health, one of the first home health-care programs in the area.

The family still owns Meadow Lakes Senior Living in Rochester and Prairie Meadows Senior Living in Kasson. Pat still has responsibilities at Comfort Health, which is run by his brother, Chris Blum. Another brother, Pete Blum, still handles the finances of Meadow Lakes and Prairie Meadows.

"I'm still working toward being totally retired," Pat said. "The irony is that my wife just recently graduated as a nurse."

January 15, 2015

New name goes up on downtown Rochester landmark

A downtown Rochester landmark now is sporting a new name.
 
A new sign for the Morgan Stanley Center went up on Wednesday at 201 S. Broadway, the former Lanmark Center.

01142015morganstanleysign"When we renewed our lease, we asked about the naming rights of the building," said David Olson, who is in charge of Morgan Stanley's Rochester branch. "People agreed it would make sense for it to be the Morgan Stanley Center. We're really excited about it."

Morgan Stanley has been based on the second floor of the 65-year-old building for the past 15 years, he said. However, a lot of people weren't aware it was there.

"Now," Olson said, "People will know where we are."

While many financial companies have moved out of downtown in recent years, Morgan Stanley decided not to follow them.

"It's kind of fun being here right at the heart of it, here at Broadway and Second. With DMC (Destination Medical Center) and all of the developments, it makes sense to stay," he said.

As part of the change, Morgan Stanley has made some changes to spruce the building and the office up. Olson said he expects to host an open house in the spring to celebrate the new name.

The name, Lanmark Center, originated from Lanmark Property Management. That firm was owned by Rochester developer Gus Chafoulias, who also owned the building from 1998 to 2003.

In 2003, GAC Development sold the 34,384-square-foot complex to MK Lanmark LLC for $7 million. MK Lanmark is owned by real estate investor Mark Kramer, of Iowa.

The building is known to older generations of Rochester residents as the former F. W. Woolworth Co., which opened there in January 1950.

Before Woolworth, that site had housed the historic Cook Hotel. The Cook Hotel, which was built in 1869, burned in February 1946. It was demolished in 1949.

January 07, 2015

Cardio3 buys cancer-fighting firm for $10 million

Cardio3 BioSciences, which works closely with both Mayo Clinic and the City of Rochester, has paid $10 million for the oncology division of a New Hampshire firm.

The Belgium-based Cardio3 agreed to pay Celdara Medical $6 million in cash and $4 million in new shares for the division called OnCyte. Celdara could receive up to $50 million, if its lead product in-development CM-CS1 hLogo_cardio_3its specific development and regulatory milestones.

The same type of payments for milestones could also reach $21 million per product for others in the pipeline. If CM-CS1 reaches market and net sales top $1 billion, Celdara will receive up to $80 million in payments from Cardio3.
OncyteCM_png
This is Cardio3's second acquisition in recent months. In November, it purchased a virtual company called CorQuest Medical Inc. Corquest is developing a sheath to provide a minimally invasive way to insert therapeutic devices. The CorQuest technology platform is complementary with Cardio3’s C-Cathez and C-Cure systems. Financial terms were not released.

The OnCyte expands Cardio3's reach beyond regenerating cardiac tissue by entering into the rapidly growing immuno-oncology cancer treatment area using chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells. OnCyte's CM-CS1 uses (CAR) technology to destroy cancer tumors. The Federal Drug Administration has cleared CM-CS1 to begin a clinical trial using patients with acute myeloid leukemia /advanced myelodysplastic syndrome and multiple myeloma. Juno Therapeutics, Amgen and Kite Pharma and others are developing products based on this concept.

In an interview with Bloomberg News, Cardio3 CEO Dr. Christian Homsy described acquiring OnCyte as “Our first foray into an area that is of very high interest… It opens a new reach, a new broad area of growth for the company that is of very high value to us and our shareholders.”

Those shareholders include Mayo Clinic, which held 3 percent ownership of Cardio3, as of Aug. 4. 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. The cardiopoiesis technology uses to repair patients' hearts by re-programming their own stem cell to regenerate cardiac tissue.

When announcing the acquisition, Homsy said that four of Cardio3's top shareholders supported the move. A Belgium family-owned holding company called Tolefi SA is the lead shareholder with 32.23 percent of the shares. The Hong Kong-based Medisun, which is building an office in Rochester, owns 8.08 percent.

In the years since 2007, Mayo Clinic has developed a close working relationship with the Belgian company. Mayo Clinic is leading the U.S. clinical trial of Cardio3 and is using a lab in the Minnesota Biobusiness Center in downtown Rochester.

A possible deal is in the works for Cardio3 to occupy the entire fifth floor of the city-owned Minnesota Biobusiness Center. Gary Smith of the Rochester Economic Development Inc. said the company has not signed a lease yet and some financial details still need to be worked out.

If Cardio3 does decide to occupy the fifth floor, Mayo Clinic will need to move its staff that currently fills the space.

December 30, 2014

Strip mall with Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe sold

A 68-year-old commercial center in northwest Rochester recently sold for $765,000.

The strip mall at 902 Seventh St. N.W., anchored by Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe, was purchased by Song H. Hong on Dec. 1. HonYeoldebuildingg also owns Safechoice Insurance Agency, which is based in the center.

Other tenants in the Seventh Street plaza include Catering By Design and Jakobson Management Co. The brick-and-concrete center was built in 1946, according to Olmsted County property records.

Hong bought the building from HRB LLC, which state records list as being based at 1830 Second St. S.E. HRB purchased it back in 2001 from RC Properties of St. Paul for $900,000, according to county records.

December 23, 2014

Re/Max Results building sells for $1.1 million

As a real-estate firm builds a new home in Rochester, its current location was recently sold.

The Rochester office building at 4600 18th Avenue N.W., where Re/Max Results has its local headquarters, was purchased for $1.1 million on Nov. 24. Local developer John Klopp's High Springs Inc. bought the 24-year-old building from Northwest Executive Properties of Rochester.

Remax exteriorRe/Max Results, an Eden Prairie, Minn.-based business with about 68 Rochester Realtors, recently started construction of a new office building on West Circle Drive Northwest.

The planned two-story, 18,000-square-foot office complex, at 4123 26th St. N.W., is expected to be completed in August or September. Re/Max Results will remain in its current office until the new building is ready.

"We're doing extraordinarily well in Rochester," said Lynn Foulke, CEO of Re/Max Results.

Re/Max has occupied the the 18th Avenue office since 1990. It was Re/Max of Rochester for most of the time, but Re/Max Results purchased the business, along with Re/Max Realty Source of Austin, from Duane Sauke in February 2012.

Sauke had been the sole owner of the Rochester RE/MAX since 2006, when he bought out five other partners: Frank Armstrong, Jim Conway, Lee Taplin, Paul Norrie and Bill King. He owned the Austin operation for about two and a half years.

Re/Max Results, owned by John Collopy, operates in Minnesota and Wisconsin with more than 800 Realtors. The firm describes itself as the16th largest brokerage in the United States.

December 22, 2014

Iowa bank to open 2nd Rochester branch

Manufacturers Bank & Trust Co. is hoping to open a second branch in Rochester in early 2015.

The Forest City, Iowa-based bank first opened a location here at 2020 Second St. S.W. in 2012. Now MBT has outgrown that 2,000-square-foot space.

927db1376e1345f697086bcd204afe4d-1MBT is a full-service bank with particular expertise in agriculture and business loans.

Pending regulatory approval, MBT has lined up the former America's Mattress building at 4408 U.S. 52 N.W. to serve as a second branch, said Tom Heepke, the bank's community president. He says it is time to expand in this market.

"We've grown the business enough now to warrant a second location," he said.

Plus the Second Street location is becoming crowded with five on staff. If the second branch is approved as expected, MBT plans to add more staff and transfer current staffer Andy Mai to manage it, according to Heepke.

Bank regulators expect to rule on the branch by the end of January. If everything goes as planned, MBT could open in the new location by early February.

MBT will lease the 2,800-square-foot building at 4408 U.S. 52 N.W. from Rochester developer Jeff Brown. Mike Haley of Braasch Commercial Real Estate handled the deal.

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