Can Rochester become like Boulder, Colorado?
That’s the question raised by a lengthy piece in The New Republic about the Mayo Clinic’s planned $5.6 billion “destination medical center.” During the 2013 legislative session, the state agreed to a subsidy package that will likely end up contributing $450 million to the project over two decades.
The author of The New Republic piece, Ilan Greenberg, compares the deal to the Minnesota Vikings stadium, in that both franchises threatened to take their plans elsewhere if the state didn’t play ball. The article also raises the question of whether the Mayo Clinic — which employs roughly a third of Rochester residents — has become too powerful.
“Worried that Obamacare will hurt its bottom line, Mayo is betting its future on its ability to lure an greater percentage of the wealthiest and sickest patients to its dazzling high-tech hospitals,” Greenberg writes. “The goal is to become not ‘one of,’ but the premier destination medical center of them all — the first choice for even the most winter-phobic of the global rich and sick. This race for supremacy includes not only American centers like the Cleveland Clinic, Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins, but also ultra-toney destination hospitals sprouting in medical-tourist hotspots abroad, like Bangkok and Singapore.”
In order to meet that goal, however, Rochester will need to do more than add additional medical facilities. Greenberg argues that it will require an infusion of culture — high-end bars and restaurants, theater, an expanded University of Minnesota campus — that will attract wealthy patients and medical professionals to the city.
“Mayo’s expansion will bring commotion of a different kind, as it’s one of the biggest urban development plans in the country,” Greenberg writes. “In other words, construction cranes — a lot of construction cranes — are coming, to expand what is already the largest private employer in Minnesota (including satellite operations in Florida and Arizona, Mayo claims to generate $22 billion in annual economic activity). And because the decision to double in size was made entirely within Mayo’s executive offices, this private hospital, not city hall or the state, is in charge of transforming Minnesota’s third most populous city.”