Hammes doubles down on Rochester investment
Wisconsin-based Hammes Co . has been deeply involved with Rochester's Destination Medical Center initiative from the start.
In June 2009, a group of Mayo Clinic leaders went to the Red Crown Lodge in Arbor Vitae, Wis., to work on the idea of DMC with consultants from Hammes. They also went to Hammes' offices in Madison in early October 2009 to work on the idea.
Mayo Clinic first officially contracted with the company about DMC in 2011.
Hammes Co. Sport Development, Inc., a division of Hammes Co., signed a contract for $2.3 million with in February 2014 to serve as the development manager for DMC. Hammes also was hired by Mayo Clinic in 2015 for $1.5 million, to analyze the Discovery Square piece of the DMC vision and offer a market plan of how the medical and technology research area might be developed.
In 2015, the Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau contracted with Hammes to create a feasibility study about possibly building a new multipurpose arena to house a minor league hockey team, Hammes wrapped up that contract and delivered final study in October.
In late January, Bob Dunn, the president of Hammes Sports Development, sat down in the Pannekoeken restaurant in the Days Inn hotel building in downtown Rochester to discuss DMC and Hammes' plans to demolish the Days Inn building and build a new hotel development on the site.
How did Hammes Co. fit into the creation of the Destination Medical Center initiative?
"We had discussions going with Mayo probably going as far back as 2004 and 2005... very generally about how you strengthen a city to become a stronger destination city.
"We've been around for a long time. I think we've been an important part of helping to, not only create the vision, but also organizing the plan to execute the DMC, the whole transformation that you are now starting to see."
How did Hammes become involved with projects like DMC?
"A lot of the work we've done centers on working with a civic institution, like a Mayo Clinic… Though it could be a university, could a corporation, could be sports team, could a combination of all of the above. We saw a trend about 10 years ago, where civic anchors really were becoming the foundation for economic development.
"Much our work remains centered around those community civic transformations around one of those civic anchors."
Where else has Hammes done a project like this?
"We did something like this in Allentown, Pa., a year or two before DMC, right in in the trough in the worst economy of our time.
"It (Allentown) was perceived to be a very challenged community. It is similar to Rochester -- it was always a company town forever.
"We created a kind of predecessor bill to DMC bill to create an economic development tool to drive both public and private investment. It's been a massive transformation. It has attracted about a billion and half dollars of private investment in the last 10 years.
"We had about a 20-year plan. That billion and a half has been realized in less than half that time.
"It's pretty interesting to see how this can work when it's structured properly and planned."
Hammes is now going from DMC planner to DMC investor with the proposed Days Inns project.
"When we author a plan, like we did on DMC, I always expect the community will look back to us and say are you now prepared to invest your capital to make this a reality. We are looking to do that in Rochester.
"It puts us in a unique position. We really have to believe in the plan we are crafting for the community. I think we're very unique that we have the credentials to build the vision and the plan, but we also then look for opportunities to invest in communities.
"We don't put a book on the shelf and walk away. We expect to be here (in Rochester) for a generation or more."
Why invest now?
"We've been very careful as our time and efforts here have progressed, when we were under contract with first Mayo and then the EDA.
"We were very careful not to dip our toe in the water in terms of actual development. We didn't want to have any appearance of or an actual conflict.
"Our work with Mayo on Discovery Square ran parallel with our work with EDA. Those contracts ended more than a year ago."
Is DMC progressing as you envisioned?
"I think you're now going to start to see the kind of active developments that was certainly envisioned in the creation of the DMC plan. The thing, I think you have to remember, about projects like this is that you have to keep your eye on the horizon.
"These are generational projects for a community. Sometimes you get base hits, sometimes you get home runs. You have to have the fortitude to stick with the plan, to stay focused on the core objectives."
What's next for Hammes and DMC?
"I really believe Minnesota is poised to and has the potential to be truly one of the leaders in economic development in America for the next generation. The things like DMC that have come together are sort of the building blocks.
"I think Rochester will be a case study in America 10 years from now on how you build the city of the future. We've made a big investment here and I'm prepared to make an even larger investment here.
"I think we know the market as well as anyone can know it and understand it, given all of the work we've done. Our time here in Minnesota is only going to continue. This is a community we're very focused on now.
"We have other opportunities in Rochester we're working on actively. We're pretty bullish on this state right now."