Month: August 2013

Rochester: One of America’s most livable cities?

6Z8C4133This week’s DMC blog content focused on “Livable City” – one of 7 areas of focus for DMC.

For many Rochester residents, high speed rail connecting Rochester and the Twin Cities, more street markets and performing arts venues are key components to a livable downtown. In this featured article, Freiburg, Germany has been named the world’s most livable city. The article highlights the city’s components of a livable city:

1. Development of Pedestrian Zone
2. Transportation Planning
3. Farmers’ Market
4. Festivals and Street Entertainers
5. Renewable energy, solar industry, photo-voltaics, and water quality
6. Design of a new urban neighborhood

In this article, Travel and Leisure highlights America’s greatest main streets. They all have things in common. They’re smaller communities – no major metropolitan areas. They place emphasis and value on features such as walkability, community-based businesses, architecture and vibrancy.

Clicking through both articles inspires many ideas for Rochester’s future. What are your thoughts? Share some of the ways you feel Rochester could become a more livable city in the comments section below.

Making Rochester a more livable city

“Livable City” is one of the 7 areas of focus for the Destination Medical Center initiative, but what does it mean? In a nutshell, livable cities are vibrant, welcoming and diverse, and offer places, services and amenities that appeal to a wide range of audiences.

In this week’s installment of “Gabe on the Street,” Gabriel talks with area residents and visitors about their vision for a more livable city. You can read more from our blog authors by searching “livable city” through the search box. And be sure to join the discussion by adding to the comments below.

Creativity and collaboration will help transform Rochester

Melissa Schmid, Blog Author

Ever since I moved to Rochester three years ago, I have thought that this city is a livable city with great potential to evolve. Rochester has so much to offer in terms of outdoor recreational activities along our bike trails and at our parks, shopping, dining, and a wide array of arts and cultural programs. I especially enjoy the downtown atmosphere – a hub of creativity where enthusiastic minds come together every day to innovate and infuse positive energy into our city. The downtown has become a community gathering place through events and festivals, work places, the care-giving of Mayo Clinic and a bustling economy that defines the vibrant personality of our livable city.

I spend a lot of time watching people interact in Rochester and tend to notice a genuine openness and generous spirit, which in my opinion are two characteristics a city must portray in order to be an inviting livable city. As we continue to build our city, embracing our core characteristics of creativity, collaboration, openness and generosity, we will transform Rochester into a more radiant gem for its residents to proudly call “home.”

Melissa Schmid is the events director for the Rochester Downtown Alliance.

What additions to Rochester do you feel would make it a more vibrant, livable city? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

George: DMC ‘the most important thing for Minnesota’s future’

Former Medtronic CEO and business ethics leader Bill George called Destination Medical Center “the most important thing for Minnesota’s future” in an interview with TPT’s Almanac last week. George, a member of the Mayo Clinic Board of Trustees, was appointed as the Mayo representative to the Destination Medical Center Corporation Board, which is the governing board responsible for overseeing the DMC initiative.

“… It’s brand new – it’s a whole new idea that has never been tried here – I’m not sure where it’s ever been tried,” he said of the $6 billion economic development initiative that will leverage Mayo Clinic and private development to ignite growth and create jobs over the next 20 years. “I see this as the most important thing for Minnesota’s future,” he said. “This is making Minnesota a health care mecca. Our best opportunity for economic growth, jobs and good health is making Minnesota the healthiest state in the nation … that should be our goal.”

Tina Smith named chair of DMCC Board

Tina SmithTina Smith, Chief of Staff for Governor Mark Dayton, was unanimously selected as chair by the Destination Medical Center Corporation Board at its inaugural meeting last week.

DMCC was created as part of the (DMC) legislation passed in May and serves as the public governing board charged with overseeing the implementation of DMC. The law outlines the appointments of the eight members of the DMCC Board, with Governor Dayton appointing four, the City of Rochester appointing two, Olmsted County appointing one and Mayo Clinic appointing one. Governor Dayton’s appointees include Smith, former Wells Fargo executive James Campbell, Rani Engineering President Susan Rani and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. City of Rochester representatives are Mayor Ardell Brede and Council member Ed Hruska. Olmsted County’s representative is Commission President Jim Bier. Mayo Clinic’s representative is former Medtronic CEO Bill George, who is a member of the Mayo Clinic Board of Trustees.

The Board directed Smith to retain independent legal counsel to review and propose Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws for the DMCC, as well as take steps to develop the DMC work plan. Both action items will be discussed at the next meeting of the Board, which is expected at the end of September.

DMC Ambassadors engage community in visioning Rochester’s future

Thursdays on First, a weekly festival in downtown Rochester, was the site of community brainstorming and visioning for DMC. Over 80 DMC ambassadors have been working to talk with individuals and groups in the Rochester community and surrounding region about what they would like to see grow over the next 20 years. Visioning boards were full of ideas by the end of the day, including everything from increased transportation options to suggestions for restaurants, entertainment venues and social activities. Ambassadors also handed out free DMC t-shirts with the slogan “Let’s Build This Thing” – an invitation for community members to become part of the DMC initiative.

Community members are encouraged to continue sharing their ideas through the DMC Blog, as well as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Watch coverage of the Thursdays on First event from KAAL.

DMC in the news:
DMC convenes first meeting – Rochester Post-Bulletin
$6 billion makeover of Rochester and Mayo underway – Minneapolis Star Tribune

Rochester’s medical community: Great power, great responsibility

Shruthi Naik, PhD, Blog Author

The amount of brainpower concentrated within the Rochester area is staggering. Mayo Clinic’s remarkable achievements in delivering exemplary patient care have been heralded as a model to the country and the world. What is perhaps less known are the armies of scientists: biologists, chemists, engineers, statisticians, all dedicated to developing ideas that change the way we look at, understand, and treat disease.

Turning these ideas into reality, into companies and products that improve patient care, should be a key focus of DMC’s Commercial Research and technology initiative. It is our responsibility as a medical community to further innovations that improve patient care and these innovations in turn will build the local economy, create jobs and contribute to the DMC vision of making Rochester and Minnesota a Global center for healthcare.

“Easier said then done” is putting it lightly when it comes to describing the process of turning ideas into reality, especially in the area of biotechnology where product development is expensive, highly-regulated, and capital-intensive. Development of technologies to improve treatment of cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other major diseases is imperative, and while we have the best minds in the world working to develop solutions, the transition of these technologies to patients remains arduous. Critical resources that I hope are part of DMC’s commercial research and technology initiative include improved access to commercial lab space, funding for early stage companies, and the legal, financial, clinical and regulatory expertise needed to facilitate this process.

I am excited about the ability to realistically build companies and develop groundbreaking new technologies in Rochester. There is an increasing awareness of the existing hurdles, a willingness to address them, and an emphasis on developing the resources and people needed to overcome them. To borrow a corny but appropriate superhero adage, the DMC vision highlights our great power, our innovative and dynamic community, and our great responsibility, to take on the challenge of applying these technologies to benefit Rochester and the lives of people worldwide.

Shruthi Naik, PhD, is a research fellow at Mayo Clinic and co-founder of Omnis Pharma, a biotech company dedicated to transforming cancer therapy through innovation.



A patient experience worth honking about

“It’s critical that we make the Rochester experience positive for patients and visitors — not just

Joe Powers (standing) and his staff serve up food and positive experiences at the Canadian Honker.
Joe Powers (standing) and his staff serve up food and positive experiences at the Canadian Honker.

inside Mayo, but everywhere in the community,” says Joe Powers, owner of The Canadian Honker Restaurant and Catering in Rochester.

Powers, a Rochester native, cultivates an environment where employees are mindful of the medical visitor experience. “You never know what the customer may be going through,” he says. An estimated 50 percent to 60 percent of The Canadian Honker’s customers are Mayo patients and their families. “Sometimes, they come in with heavy hearts; they are going through difficult times. Our employees are conscious of the big picture and the importance of offering food for the soul.”

Outside of Mayo Clinic, the patient experience needs to be embracing and uplifting, according to Powers. “Mayo does a great job within their environment,” he says. “The outside is where all of us can also make a difference. Tourist communities work hard for visitors to have a positive experience. Mayo shouldn’t have to take care of that experience alone. As a community, we want all of our visitors to go back and talk about the good experience they had while visiting.”

Because of its location across from Saint Marys Hospital, the Canadian Honker becomes a home away from home for many patients and their families from all over the world. Restaurant staff often become extended family to many medical visitors — with the all-important warm smile, offering hugs and a listening ear when needed. Because many patients stay for weeks, staff have forged friendships.

“There are many heartwarming stories about hospitality making a difference in patient experience,” says Powers. “Sometimes that’s the best medicine of all.” His managers have been through Certified Tourist Ambassador (CTA) training and can provide accurate information about lodging, transportation and recreation to visitors. The Canadian Honker also features gluten-free options and other dietetically sensitive offerings, such as low-salt, low-fat and sugar-free foods that patients might require.

According to Powers, Mayo has partnered well with the community in patient experience efforts. “Mayo realized that all the partners in the hospitality sector are very important,” he says. “They opened up their arms to us, and have engaged the community as part of Destination Medical Center (DMC). Together, we will make our system stronger all the way around.”

From Powers’ perspective, transportation, roads and parks will be significant for DMC, along with city beautification and the arts. “Building the world’s premier destination medical community will require lots of options for visitors,” he says. Around the world, medical tourism is increasing in focus and competition. “Rochester and Minnesota have an advantage and can build upon the Mayo Clinic brand strength and reputation of excellence. Our community is poised and ready to embrace the growth.”

DMC a ‘new dawn’ for commercial research and technology

Jamie Sundsbak, Blog Author
Jamie Sundsbak, Blog Author

Commercial Research and Technology is term that can be difficult to grasp. Simply put, the Rochester area is looking to attract and develop businesses based on research and technology.  Some of these businesses will come from elsewhere, some will be started right here in Rochester largely based on intellectual property (IP) developed at Mayo or IBM.

In fact, the Rochester area is a gold mine of IP. Per capita, Rochester generates more IP per year than even Silicon Valley!  This is due to our educated, creative, and hardworking citizens that create game changing breakthroughs every day.

The passage of the DMC has sparked a new dawn for Rochester commercial research and technology. I believe that technologies created here in Rochester should have incentives to be developed here. We shouldn’t be outsourcing our ideas to Minneapolis, Boston, or Madison. In fact, we should be “in sourcing” talent and ideas from other places to continue the long tradition of Rochester based innovation started by the Mayo Brothers over one hundred years ago.

The growth of biobusiness in our area has already begun. Biotech and healthcare IT companies are starting to emerge. Rochester biobusiness entrepreneurs have pioneered a new industry in our community and should be applauded for their efforts. Additionally, the Mayo BioBusiness Accelerator hosts over 10 new start-ups right now with many more in the pipeline. These start-ups will create new jobs help to diversity our local economy as well as attract investment dollars to our region. That’s an exciting recipe for success and a bright future for Rochester biobusiness.

I’m excited to see what the next twenty years of DMC holds for Rochester. Ultimately, DMC is about the people in our community who have the willingness to take the risks to make this grand vision come true. All you need to do to help is to find your passion and make it happen. Let’s build our future together.

What are your ideas on developing biobusiness in Rochester and the State of Minnesota? Share your ideas in the comments section below.

Jamie Sundsbak is a senior research technologist at Mayo Clinic and founder of BioAM, a monthly meet-up group dedicated to fostering a biobusiness start-up culture in Rochester.


My Rochester life: 8 years later

Dan Aguilar, Blog Author
Dan Aguilar, Blog Author

It’s like I went to sleep and woke up 8 years later. Time flies, especially in a place that is experiencing as much growth and opportunity as Rochester.

I still catch myself staring at our little downtown skyline and feeling a surge of happiness and pride as I gaze upon the iconic Kahler Hotel Sign. I have called Rochester home since 2005, but regardless of days, weeks, or years, in my heart, Rochester has always felt like home.

Before I moved here, I lived in big and small cities in Texas, California, Virginia, South Carolina and New Mexico. While I enjoyed living in those states, it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. Growing up as an impoverished first-generation Mexican-American, I always dreamed of working downtown, owning my own business and being actively part of the community. These things didn’t seem like a possibility for a long time until I moved to Rochester.

What makes Rochester so special for me is its culture. A culture that is unique and somewhat difficult to define due to its vacillating characteristics between small town and big city. In my opinion, this city consists of mostly highly educated and family-oriented people of diverse backgrounds who are extremely generous, caring and accessible. As I write this, I think of the hospitality and friendship so many members of this community have extended to me, a complete stranger at one point. One particular experience stands out where Mayo’s CEO treated me as an honored guest and gave me a tour of his house after responding to a service call because his stereo system wasn’t working. Another stand-out experience was the enthusiasm my SCORE business advisor showed me the first time we met about launching my own business. Undeniably, this city is made up of great people and it has proven itself to be a perfect environment for me.

During my time here, I have accomplished a lot. I own a downtown home technology business, Smart Home Innovations & Engineering, Inc. (SHINE), volunteer weekly performing hand massages for chemo patients at Mayo, and have an active role marketing Rochester’s Downtown. Fortunately, these accomplishments are about as good as I imagined them 25 years ago, but it would not have been possible without this city and the people here.

So how does all of this tie into DMC? Well, eight years ago, I knew in my gut that Rochester was the place to achieve my childhood dreams. Today, at the beginning of the DMC initiative, I have the same feeling and believe Rochester will be the catalyst to fulfill my adult life goals well into my golden years. My primary goal now is to grow the business by sharing my passion for home technology. Currently at SHINE, we offer home technology systems centered on entertainment and convenience such as home theaters, automation and whole house audio systems. However, since the introduction of the DMC, I have started thinking about home technology a little differently. I believe that home technology has a real future in healthcare at a large scale here in Rochester because of the DMC. Healthcare home technology has been around for sometime, but has had little impact to date. I believe DMC can change that. It’s difficult to know exactly what this will look like at this time, but I envision a DMC patient visiting with me requesting that we design, install or wire his home for latest personal health care devices/applications due to their treatment at Mayo.

Dan Aguilar is a Rochester business owner and an active community volunteer.

What are your hopes for the future of Rochester? What entrepreneurial opportunities do you see as DMC moves forward? Share your comments below.