Star Tribune: Economic development chief is the force driving Rochester’s $6B rebirth

As head of the Destination Medical Center’s Economic Development Agency, Lisa Clarke is its caretaker, traffic cop and chief cheerleader.

A pair of tennis shoes tucked into her bag, a water bottle at the ready, Lisa Clarke steps into a meeting in a busy morning full of them and drops a well-worn line.

“It’s a good day to be in Rochester,” she says, flashing a broad smile at those in attendance.

The extra shoes come in handy when she’s hurrying through the city’s skyways to her next thing. A packed schedule came with the job, as did a long title: executive director of the Destination Medical Center’s Economic Development Agency.

The title probably doesn’t ring a bell for most Minnesotans, but it should. The DMC will cost taxpayers more than the Vikings stadium. It will double Rochester’s population in a generation. It will bring tens of thousands of jobs. And, if all goes well, it will rain billions in new tax revenue as it cements the Mayo Clinic’s reputation for being the world’s premier hospital.

Standing at the intersection of all the groups trying to make this happen is Clarke, the project’s caretaker, traffic cop and chief cheerleader. Clarke isn’t the visionary behind the project — that falls to the Mayo and the city of Rochester — but Clarke is the project’s face.

“Certainly if I wanted to connect with anything DMC related, I would go right to Lisa,” said Tim Tripp, of the University of Minnesota’s Office of University Economic Development. “There would be no one else who would even come into my mind.”

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