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585 posts categorized "Tech/ computer news"

August 05, 2014

European publisher closes Rochester office

An European publisher of auto repair manuals told local employees this week that its Rochester office is closing following the company's decision to back out of the U.S. market.

Maidenhead, England-based Autodata originally moved its U.S. headquarters to Rochester in 2005. The company, which focuses on providing technical information for mechanics, had 15 people working at its 4,000-square-foot office at 6301 Bandel Road N.W. until last summer. That's when it cut its staff in half.

Autodata online coverThere were six people working for Autodata in Rochester until the firm let four employees go this week. Two staffers will remain on Autodata's payroll to continue to support some large contracts from home, though the office is expected to be completely closed by mid-August.

"We've had to take the rather drastic decision to close office in Rochester. It's no reflection on the efforts of the staff, who did great job for us," said Autodata CEO Rod Williams, who flew to Rochester from England to deliver the news in person.

Autodata_logoAutodata takes a different approach than similar U.S. publishers. Instead of focusing on specific models, it creates manuals based on a subject like airbags or transmissions, and then includes information for all vehicle models, including those no longer being made. The information is constantly updated. It provides up-to-date technical information for about 17,000 vehicles made by more than 80 companies, though the bulk of the manufacturers are based in England, France and Germany.

Williams says the company, which remains successful in Europe and Australia, struggled to win over the U.S. market. It had some ups during its run here, he said. This office grew from four employees in 2005 to 16 by 2007.  In the end, it just wasn't enough to make the Rochester office sustainable.

While Autodata's long-time owners did sell the company to two investment firms in May, Williams says the change only hastened the closing of Rochester.

"Sooner or later, it was going to come, unfortunately," he said.

The rapidly changing world of publishing added more challenges to Autodata's push into the U.S. The first year that Autodata made more from electronic products over printed manuals was in 2007. Since then, the industry's move to away from print has rapidly picked up speed. Print manuals shifted into CDs, then DVDs and eventually online.

"The world has moved on from books," said Williams. "By the end of the year, we'll be wholly online in Europe. We've already been completely online in Australia for many years."

July 29, 2014

Custom Communications spins off music biz

A 46-year-old Rochester business is spinning off its audio and music business.

Custom Communications Inc., founded by Leigh J. Johnson in his basement in 1968, started in the background or "elevator" music business by providing sound systems and music for stores, restaurants and offices. He soon added security systems to Custom's offerings and that grew to be a major business driver for Johnson's firm. However, sound systems and background music remain an important part of the business.

L-SS8pdq1On Friday, the audio and security components will each follow their own paths under the Custom Communications' umbrella.

Sound and Media Solutions will open its own office in Suite 109 at 3003 43rd St. N.W. under the leadership of Nikki Johnson, Leigh Johnson's daughter. Meanwhile, Custom Alarm will continue to operate at the company's headquarters' at 1661 Greenview Dr. S.W. Melissa Brinkman, Leigh Johnson's other daughter, took over as CEO of Custom Alarm after he retired and began serving as chairman of company's board of directors.

"I'm real excited about it. I think this will better serve our customers," said SMS Managing Director Nikki Johnson. "The sound business is just a different type of business, with different sales people and different installers. This just makes sense."

Sound and Media Solutions sells equipment and services related to music systems as well as drive-through intercoms, public address systems and patient/nurse communications.

In addition to Nikki Johnson, the new SMS office is staffed with six other experienced Custom employees.

After its humble beginnings in Leigh Johnson's basement, Custom Alarm has grown to employ more than 70 people at its Rochester and Winona locations.

July 09, 2014

Does IBM have future in Vermont?

Here's a little chunk from a well-researched, long article written by Paul Heintz from Vermont's alt paper, Seven Days.

While there is no direct link (as far as I know) between the fate of the Vermont campus and the one in Rochester, this does sound familiar. For anyone interested in the what is happening with Big Blue, this is a pretty worth-while read.

You can read the full article at this link.

What we're looking at is a city," Frank Cioffi says, nodding at a sprawling landscape of industrial buildings, electrical transformers and storage tanks on the banks of the Winooski River.

The 59-year-old economic development guru steers his black Nissan Maxima toward a guard shack that stands sentry at the northeastern entrance to IBM's Essex Junction campus.

"We're not going to Bildebe able to get in," he says, pulling a U-turn and retreating from the fortress. "Security is watching us."

In more certain times, the Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation president might easily escort a reporter through the 725-acre campus, which GBIC developed from farmland 60 years ago. But with Big Blue reportedly nearing a sale of its chip-making division to Emirate of Abu Dhabi-owned GlobalFoundries, IBM Vermont is on lockdown.

Even Cioffi, its loudest local cheerleader, is in the dark about what a sale might mean for the 4,000-plus jobs remaining at the facility. Like many, he suspects IBM will reveal its intentions next week when it releases its second- quarter earnings report.

"We're dealing with two public corporations that aren't going to tell us anything, because they can't," he says.

Clouds of uncertainty have lingered over Essex Junction for more than a decade, as the company has retrenched and its Vermont workforce dwindled from a 2001 peak of 8,500. But never have the skies above the industrial park looked so dark.Ibm-logo

As IBM repositions itself as a services-oriented company focused on cloud computing, it has jettisoned less profitable hardware operations. In January, it struck a deal to sell off its low-end server business to China-based Lenovo for $2.3 billion.

Though GlobalFoundries specializes in the very chip-manufacturing work conducted at the Essex Junction plant, reports in the financial press have indicated that the company is interested in IBM's patents and engineers — not its aging facilities.

June 17, 2014

Brandix i3 'graduates' from Accelerator, leases BioBusiness Center space

Another start-up is "graduating" from the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator to lease office space in Rochester's Minnesota BioBusiness Center.

02272013mayoaccelerator1As a parting gift, it is providing the Accelerator with a short-term solution to its need to expand by  providing space for it to use.

Brandix i3, the healthcare technology arm of a Sri Lanka-based company, has signed a three-year lease with the City of Rochester for 2,000-square-feet of space on the skyway level of the center at  221 First Ave. S.W. The space is half of a 4,000-square-foot area that never hasHeader been built out for a tenant since the BioBusiness Center opened five years ago.

The software development firm plans to have six employees based in the Rochester office to start with, though it expects to grow to 12 by the end of the year, said Aaron Epps, Brandix's associate vice president of healthcare.

"We want to be part of the Destination Medical Center project," said Epps. "We're looking to expand quickly. We're a start-up, but we're a start-up with the backing of a large company."

051509biobusinesscenteratnightBrandix currently is operating out of the Accelerator space. The lease that was approved by the city council Monday sets Brandix's rent at $20 per rentable foot for the 2,000-square-foot space. It also will pay its share toward the maintenance of the building and its taxes.

The city is giving "a one-time fit-up allowance" of $10 per square foot, or $20,000, to the software firm to prepare its offices.

By comparison, the city signed a five-year lease in 2013 with Patient First Home Infusion Services for $16 per square foot and gave it $10,000 to use for construction costs.

In 2013, Imanis Life Sciences signed a five-year lease set at $15.50 per square foot for the first two years.  It then increases every year to $18.50 by the fifth year. The city also agreed to provide Imanis a $20 per foot allowance to build out the space plus an interest-free loan of up to $10,000.

In addition to the leasing the 2,000-square-feet, Brandix's lease promises "first right of refusal" for the other 2,000 square feet of adjacent vacant space to the west.

"In the interim, the Business Accelerator may lease the adjacent space until such time as it is needed by Brandix," according to the lease. There has been talk of expanding the Accelerator, which opened in 2009.

Epps, who has lived his whole life in Rochester, says the company plans to create a "unique" office to enhance the local business community.

Brandix's focus is to work with its local partner, Rochester-based Ambient Clinical Analytics. Ambient makes "real-time decision support tools" for doctors and nurses working in the ICU, operating room or emergency departments.

Mayo Clinic launched Ambient in 2013, and it named Al Berning as CEO. Berning is known in Rochester as a former IBMer, a co-founder of Pemstar and former CEO of Hardcore Computers/LiquidCool Solutions.

May 13, 2014

LSI becomes Avago, impact on Roch. office uncertain

05132014avagomainsignLSI Corp., which designs semiconductors and software, officially became part of Avago Technologies last week as the $6.6 billion acquistion officially closed.

That change reportedly has LSI/Avago employees in Rochester wondering about their future.

05132014avagoinsidesignUnofficial buzz around the change is that a decision is being made this week about keeping the Rochester jobs here or moving them out of state.

It's unclear how many people currently work at the site here at 3033 41st St. N.W., though LSI has employed between 10 to 30 people here at different times over the years. LSI also has Minnesota facilities in Bloomington and Mendota Heights.

LSI has had an "on again, off again relationship" with Rochester dating back to 2002, when it leased 20,000 square feet of space in the Valley Business Center II at 3425 40th Ave. N.W. It had about 29 employees.

On June 30, 2006, LSI closed its Rochester site. It had 11 employees, when it closed.

AgeremailboxThen in November 2006, Allentown, Penn.-based Agere Systems opened a 6,000-square-foot office at 3033 41st St. N.W. Agere hired a team of 10 local storage design engineers that formerly worked for Maxtor Corp.’s Rochester office. That office closed in 2006 when Maxtor was acquired by Seagate Technologies.

LSI re-appeared in Rochester in December 2006, when it bought Agere Systems. Soon the signs at 3033 41st St. N.W. turned into LSI.

That's where everything stood until the arrival of Avago. In the press release announcing the acquistions, Avago stated that it anticipates saving $200 million by Nov. 1, 2015. That might be interpretated as plans to close some of LSI's 26 facilities.

I'll do my best to keep an eye on this to see what happens next. If anyone has information, official or otherwise, about this, I'm interested in hearing it.

March 31, 2014

Lots of construction cooking at Big Blue

Lots of construction is in the works on IBM's sprawling Rochester campus.

IBM buildinglogoSome final work still is underway in buildings 333 and 002 for Charter Communications. The cable-television provider is leasing those buildings to house an estimated $3.5 million expansion of Charter Business, its business-to-business division.

Charter says the expansion will add more than 140 jobs to its Rochester operations. The company is planning a ribbon-cutting ceremony for April 15 in Building 002 on the IBM campus.

While neither Charter nor IBM are discussing it yet, a permit also has been submitted to the city planning department for interior demolition of IBM's Building 005. Charter-business-logo

The permit describes the demolition as preparing the building for "Future Charter Business."  The value of this project is listed as $3.25 million.

Without information from Charter or IBM, it's unclear what this permit signifies. However, Building 005 is connected to Building 002, so it's possible Charter needs more space for its expansion and it possibly is leasing a third building from IBM.

HgstLook for more details about this project in the near future.

Meanwhile, HGST has construction of its own cooking in one of the buildings it leases from IBM. Western Digital's HGST, formerly owned by Hitachi, is working on a Crossfit workout center and locker room. That project is valued at $325,900.

Big Blue also has some construction in the works on its Rochester campus.

A permit has been filed for an "acoustic chamber upgrade" valued at $195,000 in IBM's Building 020.

March 19, 2014

FirstTech pulls the plug on its Roch. store

FirstTech, the Apple computer store that opened just six months ago in Rochester's Apache Mall, closed its doors for good on Wednesday.

FirstTechclosingsignEmployees say their bosses closed the doors and changed the locks at 11 a.m. and then told the staff about the closing. FirstTech employed 15 people, including the store manager, in Rochester.

A sign on the door of the 3,100-square-foot store said the Rochester location, as well as the main FirstTech store in Minneapolis, are both closing due to lack of profitability.

A FirstTech email said staff will remain at the Rochester store through the end of the week for customers to pick-up orders and/or equipment that had been left there for repairs or maintenance. A doorbell was installed on the store's door. The sign said to ring the bell to arrange pick-up. It also stated that the store will be staffed for pick-ups from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. A sticker next to the sign showed that the store was closed, when FedEx came by to pick-up packages from the store.

While the Rochester store is mostly shut down, the Minneapolis FirstTech store will remain open until the end of the month.

The email included this explanation for the abrupt closing, "Over the last two years in particular, the market changes in our industry have been rapid and dramatic. Competition has increased and margins have decreased making it more and more difficult to run our business profitably and still provide the high level of service we are known for."

More details are expected to be posted on the FirstTech website on Thursday.

FirstTech, which described itself as Minnesota's "leading Apple specialist," has sold and serviced Apple equipment, since 1977. It claims to be the oldest reseller of Apple products in the world.

Prior to the Oct. 12 opening of the Apache Mall store, General Manager and Co-owner Pete Paulsen was very optimistic about the project.

"We've done a lot of market research and Rochester is probably the most exciting market in the area. There are great things going on in Rochester and we think it's a great opportunity for us," he said.

February 12, 2014

KTTC owner to add more stations

The owner of the Rochester's KTTC-TV station announced Tuesday that it's acquiring four more stations, including one in Duluth.

Ef06da64-f7c8-40c1-b090-c0d0cb609f18Quincy Newspapers Inc., which has owned KTTC since 1974, is buying KBJR-TV and its satellite, KRII-TV, in Duluth, Minn.; WEEK-TV in Peoria/Bloomington, Ill.; WPTA-TV in Fort Wayne, Ind. and WBNG-TV in Binghamton, N.Y. from New York City-based Granite Broadcasting Corp.

Financial terms of the purchase were not released.

The deal also includes Quincy providing operating services to four other stations in the same type of the relationship that KTTC has with Fox affiliate KXLT-TV in Rochester. Those stations include KDLH-TV in Duluth, WISE-TV in Fort Wayne as well as WHOI-TV and WAOE-TV in Peoria/Bloomington.

The sale will not be official until it's approved by the Federal Communications Commission. If approved, Quincy's portfolio will grow to 23 stations in 14 markets. QNI also owns and operates two radio stations plus a newspaper in Quincy, Ill., along with a newspaper in Newton, N.J.

6a00d83451cc8269e20120a6402558970c-250wiJerry Watson, KTTC's general manager and one of Quincy's two regional vice presidents, says the timing of the FCC decision is hard to anticipate, but it usually takes a few months. A lot of final details cannot be worked out until that approval. However, Watson says this is a positive step for Quincy and Rochester.

"The good news is that Quincy is one of the very few small broadcast groups who are looking to grow. Unlike the investment firms buying up stations, the Oakley family (who own Quincy Broadcasting) are truly owner-operators. That's why I've stayed with them for 25 years," he says. "Picking up new stations is fun and we get to ride in like white knights."

Quincy purchased stations in Wisconsin and Iowa in 2006 and 2009.

“We are thrilled to acquire these stations as well as the operating agreements for the others,” stated Ralph M. Oakley, president-CEO of Quincy, in an announcement Tuesday. “Our company is committed to the communities and regions it serves by providing the best in local news, community affairs and entertainment.”

New_Quincy_logoThese new stations will add more work for the already-busy Watson, who already is in charge of  six broadcast markets in four states. The plan is for him to take over the management of the Peoria/Bloomington market. He already is in charge of the Illinois stations in Quincy and Rockford. The other regional vice president will manage the other seven markets.

It's possible this acquisition also could add more duties in Rochester, if any of these stations are added to the broadcasting "hub" based at KTTC. Rochester already handles the master control broadcast services for Quincy's operations in Sioux City and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

"As the hub, we're the center of the spokes of the wheel. We could easily take on more," said Watson. "We're in a good position here in Rochester."

January 28, 2014

Mayo Clinic to ramp up link to Dept. of Defense

My colleague Jeff Hansel is writing an article about Mayo Clinic opening an office called Mayo Clinic Department of Defense Medical Research Office to better connect with Dept. of Defense for contracts and research.

Watch for Jeff's article on this soon.

I've touched on this topic in past years, so I dug up some info about recent DOD contracts with Mayo.

MayodefenseSince 2000, Mayo Clinic in Rochester has received about $41 million from the DOD. About $37 million of that $41 million was paid out for "Research and Development - Missile/Space Systems - Advanced Development," according to federal government records.

The majority of that work is done at the Dept. of Defense Medical Research Office, which is in the Mayo Support Center on West Circle Drive. That office has long been spearheaded by Dr. Barry K. Gilbert.

Some of the recent projects, according to federal contract records, include:

• R&D Services for Development and Demonstration of Capabilities of Hybrid Supercomputer

• Development of Ultra-High Linearity X-Band Mixers

• Study of Energy Harvesting Concepts, Evaluation of Quantum Orbital Magnetic Resonance Technologies

•R&D Services for Study of Energy Harvesting System Concepts

• Optical Communications: Monte Carlo Model - Preparation of Full-Scale Optical Communications Test.

I can't pretend to know what much of that means, though I believe the hybrid computer deal has something to do with immunizations and fighting virulent outbreaks. The optical communcations, I think, has something to do with transmitting medical information between hospital sites.

I confess this side of Mayo has always fascinated me. Hopefully, the creation of this new office will mean more of a spotlight will shine on Mayo Clinic's interesting military work.

January 22, 2014

It's hailing taxis in Roch.

Rochester's Yellow Cab rolled out a bunch on new Prius V hybrids Tuesday to much fanfare among local business leaders and Mayo Clinic.

YellowcabpicI trotted out to the first leg of Yellow Cab's Prius tour at Rochester Toyota. Fairly interesting. Here's a link to that article.

I had reported in June that Yellow Cab planned to switch over to hybrids. Back then, Med City Taxi was part of the transportation alliance that bought Yellow Cab. So two of Rochester's three cab companies were under the same corporate umbrella ... for a while.

Best Ride, the updated version of the transportation alliance that rolled out the new cars Tuesday, does not include Med City Taxi owner Tim and Tina Fliehr as before.

That means Rochester truly has three cab companies, Yellow Cab, Med City Taxi and Rochester Taxi, vying for the predicted DMC boom in bodies trying to get around this city.

The websites of the firms seem to put that growing competition on display.

• Yellow Cab -  yellowcabmedcity.com

• Med City Taxi - medcitytaxi.com

• Rochester Taxi - Rochester Taxi seems to only be on Facebook. It bills itself as the "people's taxi company."

Yellow Cab's use of Med City in its web address struck me as interesting and seemingly superfluous.

YellowcabwebsiteAnd then there's Yellow Cab's slogan on its website:

"Yellow Cab, your med-city taxi"

MedcitytaxiHhhmmmm.... sounds familiar. Heh.

As a side note to this little deal, I'd like to point out that my editor despise the use of the phrase Rochtaxi"Med City" to describe Rochester.

Using it in proper names is OK, but saying something like "The Med City is all aflutter with buzz about Mayo Clinic's DMC" is a no-no.

It was probably my overuse of the catchy phrase that caused it to fall out of favor. Sorry about that.

What do you think of Medropolis instead? Heh.