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16 posts categorized "Travel"

August 09, 2013

Rochester's 'Dirty little secret'

DeparturesarticleSince today is the first official meeting of the newly established Destination Medical Center Corp., I was looking at some travel articles on Rochester and Mayo Clinic.

I stumbled across a "Special Report" by Departures magazine, which is an American Express publication.

It was written by Aimee Lee Ball for this year's March/April quarterly issue, so it is pretty up-to-date. What makes this notable is how the article characterizes the community and Mayo Clinic.

It actually starts with a Mayo Clinic doctor talking about how many people try to smuggle monkeys onto an airplane. "Monkeys on a Plane" would probably be a better movie than "Snakes on A Plane." Heh.

Anyway, here are a few excerpts:

There’s no Ritz-Carlton in Rochester, Minnesota—no Four Seasons or Mandarin Oriental or Peninsula, either—and the city’s idea of an Italian restaurant is the Olive Garden. This is the dirty little secret behind any visit to the Mayo Clinic: You’ll get world-class medical care, but it’s the badlands for eating or sleeping.

When asked about where to eat, one Mayo physician advised, “My house,” and shared the name of a well-stocked market three miles away.


800px-Gonda_building,_closer_upMayo has been an iconic (and ironic) name in health care for more than a century—a place surrounded by cornfields but considered the gold standard or the last-chance saloon by royalty (both actual and media-ordained).


Everyone at Mayo seems to have drunk the Kool-Aid, including the electrician who frets about the most convenient placing of outlets and the cleaning woman who declares that she saves lives (if she’s keeping the room free from infection, she’s right). “We’re not known as the heart place or the cancer place or the knee place,” says Dacy. “We do all those things, but we’re known for comprehensive care, and people work together in this collegial way. The customer service philosophy is powerful. We have a dress and decorum committee—you won’t see unshaven doctors in scruffy scrubs like on the TV shows, and the reason is to respect patients.” Monkey bites and all.

May 13, 2013

Private Wealth mag: "Mayo Clinic Targets Ultra-Wealthy"

Here's some from an interesting article headlined "Mayo Clinic Targets Ultra-Wealthy" posted a couple of weeks ago by Private Wealth magazine. The piece was written by Raymond Fazzi.

The Mayo Clinic, one of the nation’s most prominent hospitals, is starting to flex its muscle in the field of medical concierge services for the wealthy.

OB-KS600_NetJet_D_20101104082044The Rochester, Minn.-based hospital this year started to ramp up efforts to market its Preferred Response service—a membership program that provides medical transportation and emergency services all over the world—to business travelers, travel clubs for the wealthy and other segments of the ultra-affluent market. The expansion of Preferred Response comes three years after the hospital launched its Medallion program, a concierge medical service that devotes a team of doctors to its subscribers’ primary medical care needs.

The push comes at a time when some of the nation’s top hospitals are looking to the well-heeled to increase revenues and make greater use of their more expensive, high-tech medical capabilities. Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, for example, has offered a similar concierge transportation service for years.

“Prominent hospitals are looking at any ways they can to leverage expertise to generate revenue streams,” said Dr. Clayton T. Cowl, Preferred Response medical director. “Access [to medical care] is going to be the key.”

The drive to market Mayo Clinic Preferred Response to the wealthy is based heavily on the public’s desire for medical access. The program has been part of the Mayo Clinic for more than a decade, originally as a service for dealing with in-flight medical emergencies. The program has since grown more expansive, with the ability to coordinate care and transportation when members are facing a medical emergency far from home.

“The idea is, we want to create a relationship—not just a doctor visit or two a year—no matter where you are in the world,” Cowl said.

Cutting The Line
As President Barack Obama’s health reforms start to kick in, bringing millions more people into the health system, increased waiting times for appointments and treatments are expected to become larger issues with patients.
The selling point for Preferred Response and other medical concierge services is that they allow those who can pay a premium to basically cut in line, according to industry experts.

“Ultimately, we’re in an era right now where lots more people are going to have insurance and the key I think is going to be access and connectivity,” Cowl said. “In a time of need, you don’t want to be fumbling around asking which of these 14 numbers I need to dial.”

The base membership fee for Preferred Response is $650 per year for individuals and $800 for families. The fee does not include hospital and doctors’ fees, according to a hospital spokesman.

With two around-the-clock medical teams, Preferred Response deals with emergencies throughout the world, ranging from instances where a subscriber fell down a flight of stairs in Turkey to another where a member suffered from a heart attack while vacationing in Cancun, Mexico. In one recent episode, a member suffered a punctured lung while on a bicycle tour in China. Preferred Response arranged for his treatment and transportation a few days later to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Cowl said. 


I remember when Mayo Clinic launched its relationship with NetJets back in 2003.

Mayo Clinic will now provide in-flight medical advice and assistance to people flying NetJets airlines.

The agreement, announced this week, gives NetJets employees and passengers access to Mayo Clinic support all day, every day. People on a NetJets flight can call a dedicated phone number to speak to a critical-care flight nurse or physician.

Additionally, all NetJets flight crews have received instruction in the use of special, Mayo Clinic-designed emergency medical supplies.

NetJets, based in New Jersey, is the largest provider of fractional aircraft ownership offerings in the world. NetJets currently manages 512 aircraft. This year, NetJets fractional aircraft owners will fly more than 250,000 flights to more than 140 different countries.

March 18, 2013

Oronoco couple signs for $145 million loan to buy Kahler hotels

Here's some from my piece today that pulls back the cloak of secrecy from the mysterious new ownership of the Kahler portfolio of hotels:
Loan documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission indicate that Javon Bea, a Wisconsin hospital executive who lives in Oronoco, is the driving force behind the $230 million purchase of four Rochester hotels, anchored by the Kahler Grand Hotel.
Bea, along with his wife Vita Bea, signed as "sponsors" to borrow $145 million from Deutsche Mortgage & Asset Receiving Corp., part of the German banking giant Deutsche Bank, to finance the deal to buy the hotels from Sunstone Hotel Investors, according to the documents, which are public information and available online. The deal, which was announced in February, also included the Textile Care Services laundry business.

The hotels are the Kahler Grand, the Kahler Inn & Suites, the Marriott Rochester at Mayo Clinic and the Residence Inn.

Bea also is listed as sole owner of RochesterBevFlow, which holds the liquor license for the Kahler hotels. The transfer of the liquor license is on the agenda for the Rochester City Council meeting tonight.

Bea, a former vice president of operations for Saint Marys Hospital, has been chief executive officer of Mercy Health System in Janesville, Wis., since 1989. He has not responded to repeated interview requests in recent months.

Bea previously has been identified as an investor in the Kahler purchase as well as a consultant to the ownership group by Merl GrKahler_grand_hotel_0_rochester_minnesota_unitedstatesoteboer, the Rochester Realtor who represented both sides of the deal.

The financing for the Kahler purchase was outlined in Deutsche Bank's SEC filings:

• Three Deutsche Bank loan components  — $110 million, $10 million and $25 million, totaling $145 million — provided the bulk of the financing, at an interest rate of 7.4 percent.

• "The Borrower" provided $45.8 million in equity. Javon R. Bea and Vita E. Bea are identified as the sponsors of the borrowers and the guarantors.

• Sunstone, a real estate investment firm based in Aliso Viejo, Calif., and owned the Kahler properties for 16 years, retains a $25 million equity investment in the hotels.

SEC documents filed by Sunstone also show that the California company retained $14 million in "liability related to the Portfolio's pension plan." Sunstone also provided "a $3.7 million working cash advance to the Buyer that will repaid from the Portfolio's available cash flow."

According to insiders, one of Bea's plans for the hotels is to offer transitional medical care for people recovering from treatment at Mayo on one or two floors of the 660-room Kahler Grand. The hotel is across Second Avenue Southwest from Mayo's Gonda Building and south of Rochester Methodist Hospital.

Industry experts say such a blending of hotel and hospital has been discussed in other markets, but no one has tried it in Minnesota.

December 03, 2012

Railroad puts brakes on DM&E expansion plan

Here's some from a good piece by my colleague Mike Klein. It looks like the more-than-a-decade battle to keep the DM&E from running more coal through Rochester may have come to an end with a whimper rather than a bang.

Of course, now that silca sand and fraccing is hot, that might become the new coal and be a future reason to ramp up. Life on the rails is unpredictable.


Canadian Pacific is dropping plans to extend its rail network into the Powder River Basin, abruptly ending Rochester's decades-long fight to stop the increased coal train traffic through town planned as part of that $6 billion plan.

DM&EThe railroad's announcement this morning will likely be followed by more news, as new CEO Hunter Harrison will be meeting with executives Tuesday to announce plans moving forward, spokesman Ed Greenberg said. The railroad has been reviewing its entire network, he said.

When CP acquired the Dakota Minnesota & Eastern railroad in 2007 for $1.48 billion, it also acquired the option to build a 260-mile extension of its network into coal mines in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming. Now Canadian Pacific will take a fourth quarter charge of approximately $180 million on its books, on its option to build there.

"It is CP’s intention to defer indefinitely plans to extend its rail network into the PRB coal mines based on continued deterioration in the market for domestic thermal coal, including a sharp deterioration in 2012," the company said.

The low price and increased availability of natural gas has cut into coal usage in recent years.

"We believe it is a prudent decision to defer the network into the Powder River Basin when you consider the long-term prospects of coal," said Canadian Pacific spokesman Ed Greenberg.
Olmsted County Commissioner Ken Brown said the announcement is a "good deal" for Rochester, but he cautioned that Canadian Pacific is trying to sell those tracks, and a new buyer could proceed with the Powder River Basin plan.

"In the future, who knows what could happen," said Brown, who serves on the Rochester Coalition opposing the increased rail traffic. "It could be a long time before anything could happen. It looks like it's not something to worry about imminently. In the future, if they sell it, maybe it will be, but that's down the road."

Right now, Canadian Pacific moves about about two to four trains every 24 hours through the Rochester area with "mixed freight," mainly steel and grain.

Rochester’s history of conflict with DM&E dates to 1998, when the railroad announced its plans to extend its line 260 miles west to coal fields in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. The coal-line plan alarmed Rochester-area officials because of the likelihood it would bring increased and heavier, faster traffic through the city.

The Mayo Clinic, the city of Rochester, Olmsted County and the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce teamed up to form the Rochester Coalition to oppose the bypass.

September 11, 2012

Roch's Transportation Tuesday features planes, buses and cars

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.

Allegiant Air's "campaign" bus pulled into downtown Rochester late Monday to park near the Peace Plaza in preparation for a morning of light-hearted Allegiant-bus2voting combined with a serious memorial.

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.

September 05, 2012

Storm Chasers' Dominator blowing into Roch.

The Discovery Channel's "Storm Chasers" regularly drive their Dominator vehicle through crazy weather even wilder than Rochester saw last night.

Local fans will have a chance to check out the Dominator on Thursday (tomorrow) when Line-X of Rochester brings the tank-like vehicle to Rochester for an appearance. Line-X offers special spray-on protective coatings, primarily to protect truck beds.Dominator

Look for the Dominator to be parked on display in the parking lot of Andy's Liquor at 3125 Wellner Drive, near Whistle Binkie's North.

Local Line-X owner Chris Mertesdorf says the Dominator should be out there by 10 a.m. and should be out there until at least 4:30 p.m.

The Dominator is designed to plow through storms with winds up to 200 mph. The winds that hit Rochester last night topped out at just a little more than 70 mph.

The whole vehicle is covered with Line-X's XS-650 spray-on protective coating.

May 14, 2012

Plane maker unveils new jet in Rochester

Here's some from an interesting tidbit by Candace Renalls of the Duluth News Tribune. This new plane has its own parachute, which makes a lot more sense 

Duluth-based Cirrus rolled out the latest model of its Vision jet last week at an invitiation-only event at the Rochester Internation Airport.

 Michael Marto does a lot of traveling for his businesses.


725CirrusVisionSF50andSR22_1024“We see clients all over the country for entertainment events,” said Marton, president and CEO of Executive Visions, Inc., in Atlanta. “We fly all the time.”


That’s why he’s buying Cirrus’ new light Vision Jet that’s designed for regional business and personal use and with a price tag that jumps from $1.72 million to $1.96 million on July 1.

“We’re position holder 141,” Marto said proudly at a Cirrus invitation-only event in Rochester last week where Cirrus executives gave a presentation and the jet was flown. That’s holder No. 141 of 515 buyers who have first dibs on the Vision SR-50 Jet that — if all goes as planned — will roll off the Cirrus production line beginning in 2015.

In the meantime, Marto is buying an SR-22T, Cirrus’ top-of-the-line single-engine piston plane that starts at $550,000 brand new.


About 45 Cirrus owners and prospective buyers turned out for the jet showing, which included a flight demonstration that wowed observers with its fast and slow flybys and steep climb.

The event, Cirrus’ only one in the region this year, was held at the Rochester International Airport because Rochester is a big jet market. 

July 25, 2011

Lanesoro landmark closing its doors

Here's some bad news for fans of the nearby artsy town of Lanesboro.

3786678963_7c8fee19f7 I've gotten word that Das Wurst Haus German Village and Deli, a Lanesboro landmark since the 1990s, is expected to close for good after Labor Day.

Arv and Jan Fabian usually shut down the deli known for its homemade sausages,root beer and impromptu accordion performances when they go to Arizona for the winter.

However this year, it sounds like they won't be re-opening in April for the tourist season.

"We're shutting her down," says Arv.

I haven't had a chance to chat with him in depth yet to find out the whole story, but he sounds like the plans to close up the shop are pretty firm.

I'll update this with any more details that I can round up.

October 18, 2010

New Roch. to Twin Cities shuttle to take off

Travelers soon will have a new option for getting back and forth to the Twin Cities airport and Mall of America. Rochester Shuttle Service is revving up to take off in November.

Abece283-874d-4036-a862-572d0f8a3d1aThe new service plans to run a fleet of four shuttles with 12 round-trips a day to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and Mall of America, seven days a week. It will pick up passengers at the Holiday Inn Express on South Broadway in downtown Rochester.

Owners Joel Moffitt and Michael Wees believe the crowds of people coming in and out of the  Twin Cities can easily fuel a second shuttle company in the Med City.

"There is certainly room in the market for two shuttle services," says Moffitt, referring to Rochester Go Direct, the company based out of the Kahler Hotel.

Wees, who also owns Rochester Limousine, says the shuttle offers online reservations for passengers as well as taking reservations by phone.

Starting today, reservations will be accepted online, with phone reservations starting Nov. 1. The shuttle will begin running on Nov. 15.

The pair expect to staff the business with 25 full-time and part-time employees.

July 06, 2010

Fat Willy's revving up

This time around Bill Henderson is in the driver's seat as he gears up a new hot rod of a bar-and-grill in south Rochester.

Henderson, who has managed the Mayo Civic Center concessions for Canadian Honker owner Joe Powers for the past seven years, is cooking up a place of his own called Fat Willy's.

It's being put together in a commercial building across from the Wehrenberg Galaxy Theater in the Shoppes on Maine development along U.S. 63 South.  "This something I've always wanted to do," said Henderson, who is retired from Mayo Clinic and has worked with Powers since he opened the Honker in 1985.

With a hot-rod garage theme, the 3,500-square-foot Fat Willy's is expected to take off from the starting line in September. Look for the menu to feature hamburgers, fries and sandwiches.

"Basically we'll be 092607shoppes onmainelampsjkserving bar food, but we'll also do some unique stuff like shrimp boil specials and broasted chicken," he said. "We just want to make it a fun place where people can sit down, have a beer, good food and shoot the breeze."

092607galaxycinejk Inside it will seat about 125 to 130 people and another 65 to 70 on a large patio that has a fire pit and outdoor bar.

"With that pond and waterfall out there, it is just a heck of a nice atmosphere," Henderson said.

Why the name?

"Everybody has always called me Willy," he said with a chuckle. "

And, well, I'm not the slimmest guy in the world."

Fat Willy's is also an homage to the classic 1941 Willys Coupe, known for its wide rear end. Henderson estimates that he'll have about 15 on staff.