Internet giant Google plans to open its first Minnesota office in downtown Rochester to serve as a hub for its partnership with Mayo Clinic.

The announcement was made this morning by Joe Miles, Google Cloud’s head of Healthcare and Life Sciences, that the Internet giant will move into the Collider Coworking space on the second floor of the Conley-Maass-Downs building.

In the announcement, Miles stated that the new office “... will give us a physical home in Minnesota, as well as will serve our long-term strategic partnership with Mayo Clinic.”

Google and Mayo Clinic launched the 10-year strategic partnership in the fall of 2019.

While millions of "de-identified" patient records -- records from which patient identity information has been removed -- have been moving to the Google Cloud as part of the Mayo Clinic project for more than a year, this office and the coming “Google” logo on the 120-year-old brick building will be the first physical sign of collaboration.

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“A handful of Googlers will be based there permanently,” according to Google’s Rochester site leader, Chris Mueller. “Those will be folks living and working in Rochester.”

Google and Mayo Clinic leaders declined to say exactly how much of the more than 3,000-square-foot Collider space Google will occupy.

While he could not provide more details about the expected number of employees or the office size, Mueller said that the Rochester office is “a big deal” for Google.

Screen capture of a virtual meeting to announce Google's arrival in Rochester and Minnesota. (Post Bulletin photo)
Screen capture of a virtual meeting to announce Google's arrival in Rochester and Minnesota. (Post Bulletin photo)

The actual opening of the office will be later this year, once it is deemed safe and in line with local and state COVID-19 guidelines.

The Collider Foundation that manages the Collider Coworking space in the Conley-Maass-Downs building welcomed Google as it announced plans to open a second location within the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator in the Minnesota Biobusiness Building.

“Our coworking location in the CMD building was built for innovation, and we can think of no better innovative partnership than Google and Mayo Clinic. We look forward to the work that Google and Mayo Clinic are doing together to change the future of health care," stated Collider Foundation Interim Executive Director Jamie Sundsbak.

While no details were released about how much of the 5-year-old coworking site the new office will occupy the announcement of a second Collider location could signal that Google may take up the bulk of the original 3,000-square-foot Collider space.

“This is another hub in the ecosystem of the partnership,” Mueller said. “Many people within Google are excited to move across the country for the opportunity to work with Mayo Clinic.”

Mayor Kim Norton and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz are also thrilled about the project.

“Google has long supported Minnesota businesses and nonprofits, and the fact that they’ve chosen Rochester for their first physical space in the state is a testament to our reputation as a first class city,” said Norton in this morning’s announcement.

Kim Norton
Kim Norton

The nearest Google offices in the region are in Madison, Wis., and Council Bluffs, Iowa, both of which started small and quickly grew.

“Google putting down roots in Minnesota will provide sustained economic opportunity not only for the Rochester area, but for our entire state,” Walz said this morning. “This partnership with Mayo Clinic reinforces Minnesota’s reputation as a welcoming state for innovation and economic opportunity. We welcome Google to our community.”

Gov. Tim Walz
Gov. Tim Walz

According to Google, it helped generate $7.29 billion of economic activity in 2019 for 22,200 Minnesota businesses, publishers, nonprofits, creators and developers, as well as $7.3 million of free advertising to Minnesota nonprofits through the Google Ad Grants program.

Google's Director of Global Healthcare Solutions Aashima Gupta said having Google “embedded” in the Rochester community is a key step in the Mayo-Google goal of creating tools for the digital future of health care.

While the office has not yet opened, Dr. John Halamka, president of the Mayo Clinic Platform initiative, says a lot of work has already been done as part of the Google collaboration.

Halamka’s team has been de-identifying medical records and uploading them to a secure “lockbox” on Google Cloud.

In December, 200 million de-identified radiology records were processed.

Halamka says the next steps are to upload patient genomic data as well as digital images of 25 million glass pathology slides.

“About 20 petabytes of the pathology images have already been moved. We expect to end up moving about 55 petabytes,” he said. “A petabyte is a really big number (1,000 terabytes).”

Mayo Clinic's Chief Information Officer Cris Ross described the milestone in the Mayo/Google partnership as "an extraordinary opportunity to improve lives."

"We’ve been hard at work laying technical groundwork," he said of preparing the way for the collaboration that Ross said is part of the road toward health care's "datacentric future."

In the first 18 months of the partnership, Google has also kicked off projects such as exploring the use of AI to help physicians develop radiotherapy plans, and worked on how to respond and adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic.