Mayo-related growth is nothing new in Byron

Byron City Administrator Mary Blair-Hoeft stands in front of the new logo for the city of about 5,000, just west of Rochester. She doesn’t see a big impact from Destination Medical Center yet, just more of the strong Mayo-generated growth that the city has seen for years.

BYRON — February 1956: IBM announces a giant plant is to be built in northwest Rochester.

February 1956: Byron is a small town with a nice downtown, about 10 miles from the IBM plant site.

In the next 35 years, IBM and Byron would grow together as may IBM’ers made their homes in Byron, said City Administrator Mary Blair-Hoeft.

In 1966, Mayo equalled IBM Rochester in total employment. It’s now giant by comparison, as IBM has seen its local workforce topple from a peak of about 8,000 in the 1990s to about 2,800.

Many Mayo employees also want to live in Byron, so they’ve taken up where IBM left off, Blair-Hoeft said. Because of it, Byron has been constantly looking at its infrastructure, making sure sewer and water, roads and other needs will be met as it grows.


So when Mayo announced its $5.6 billion Destination Medical Center initiative five years ago, Byron wasn’t concerned about overwhelming growth. "We have always had plans for growth, DMC doesn’t change how Byron operates," she said. "It has not caused us to plan differently … We don’t expect DMC to come marching down the street."

Mayo has been growing steadily for a long time, she said. "For me, DMC is just a name, it’s a concept," she said.

Byron’s population has grown from 1,419 in 1970 to 1,715 in 1980, 2,441 in 1990, 3,500 in 2000, and 4,914 in 2010.

Blair-Hoeft said that growth has continued into the late years of this decade. Housing permits averaged about 50 annually from 2012 to 2017, she said. With an average of about 2.5 people per family, that means the city is growing by about a bit more than 100 annually.

That compares with about 35 homes for Kasson, about 15 for Stewartville and Zumbrota and about 12 for Pine Island, according to her information.

While DMC might not change how the city operates by looking forward to growth with needed infrastructure, it apparently has heped to kick up land prices, she said.

The city has enough building lots available that it doesn’t have to offer incentives to build there, she said.

The people Byron tends to attract are often "much more educated, the more high-income people," she said. She’s not sure why. But a downside of that has been that it’s harder for the city to get grants because of the higher income.


One of the city’s best-known businesses is Otto’s Bakery, along U.S. Highway 14. It’s been there since 1980, said co-owner Anne Marie Hemmah. "We have not seen any big growth because of DMC because we have always had good customers from Mayo," she said. Many Mayo workers stop by to get goodies for their office or a special occasion, she said.

They do see new faces now and then, but from what she’s heard, for "most of them it’s not a big deal," she said. "At least not how it has affected us."

"This is a dynamic community, while still retaining its small town neighborhood feel."

Mark Breneman, 2017 Byron Area Chamber of Commerce president

The Byron Good Neighbors Day Parade rolls down 4th Street NW in Byron on a July evening.

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