The board overseeing a massive downtown Rochester build-out urged staffers to sharpen their focus on recruiting businesses and fostering partnerships, critical components of the multibillion-dollar project that haven’t materialized yet.
Five months after the group approved a development framework for the Destination Medical Center project, some members at a Thursday meeting laid out their expectations for a project-specific economic development authority to invigorate developers and businesses.
After a lengthy planning and consulting process, former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, who sits on the Destination Medical Center Corp. board, said he expects to start seeing results over the next year. He pressed for a list of possible partners and companies that align with the 20-year project, anchored by the Mayo Clinic.
“We’ve benefited from tremendous work from consultants and design and multiple other places,” Rybak said. “It’s really time to put those together into a very targeted approach.”
Board members singled out a $1.14 million line-item in the agency’s 2016 budget earmarked for professional services. The funding would primarily support marketing, consulting and communications efforts to bolster Rochester’s position in the national and global marketplaces.
They called for more rigid standards for implementing those initiatives to make sure the agency is maximizing its funding and converting interest into new development and partnerships alongside the Mayo Clinic and economic development organizations around the state.
“We need specific milestones that we can measure progress by – not just spending and budgets,” said former Medtronic CEO Bill George, who sits on the board. “We need to get down to the specifics and then build momentum. When that happens, everyone who lives in Rochester and everyone who visits Rochester will see that happening.”
From there, he said, it’ll be easier to galvanize support from the community and additional interest in the business community. He likened the opportunity to a stunning change in the Downtown East section of Minneapolis, where a new Vikings stadium stoked interest among developers that have since poured millions of dollars into new residential, commercial and other projects.
“It’s the bandwagon effect,” George said. “They’ll all want to get on board.”
Lisa Clarke, who heads the Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency, said her staff is starting to put together a roster of sought-after companies and partners that will help shape marketing and recruitment. In addition, the agency will launch a broad-based campaign to drum up wider interest.
Through next year, the agency will focus heavily on two downtown sub-districts: Discovery Square, designed to be a hotspot for entrepreneurs, and the centrally located Heart of the City. Discovery Square is expected to feed into the project’s overall goal of adding as many as 45,000 jobs to Rochester’s workforce.
“The Discovery Square will be an extremely important place,” George said. “We want to make sure it’s done right so we make sure we get the right companies coming in here.”
George, who also sits on Mayo Clinic’s board of trustees, said the world-renowned clinic is more open than ever to the kind of growth-oriented partnerships that could catalyze commercial growth in a transforming downtown.
Leveraging the Mayo Clinic – which is expected to sink billions into the Destination Medical Center – and others will generate the results needed to jump-start development and lay the foundation for years of growth ahead.
The sooner that process starts, the better, Rybak said.
“This should be the year when we should be announcing X, Y, Z has signed up to be in Discovery Square, and so-and-so is building this and that,” he said.