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Ken Klotzbach /  

Final leg of Torch Run

Law enforcement members and friends and family from Olmsted Sheriff, Rochester Police and the Federal Medical Center run and ride in the Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg for Special Olympics Minnesota Wednesday, June 19, 2019 along Bandel Road northwest in Rochester. The Southeast Minnesota group started at the Law Enforcement Center in Rochester and will meet with other legs of the run in St. Paul on Friday.

State funding eases passage of $307 million school budget
 john molseed  / 

The $307 million 2019-2020 budget passed by the Rochester Public School district Tuesday features few major changes or surprises.

District officials credit lawmakers in part for that.

The Minnesota Legislature increased per-pupil funding to public schools by 2 percent.

“Had it been less than that, we probably would have had to go back to the budget and make changes,” Superintendent Michael Muñoz said.

Much of the budget features few changes from the 2018-2019 school year budget. The biggest change is an increase in mental health and counseling staff, Muñoz said.

The increase in resources for mental health and counseling services came at the behest of school officials, he said.

“What we heard consistently was that they need more support in the mental health area, so we felt that we had to make a commitment in our budget to do that.” he said. “We’re still not at the level we probably need to be, but it’s definitely a good step in the right direction.”

Much of the resources will go toward preventative mental health and counseling in secondary schools. However, included in the mental health increases is an elementary-level social-emotional learning program called “Second Step.”

Those increased resources come at the expense of media and library services. The budget shows a reduction in more than 3 full-time equivalences in library media specialists for the budget year.

“Whenever you do something new, you have to make reductions in other budgets,” Muñoz said.

The budget projects the district’s teacher-to-student ratio to be one teacher per 14.6 students.

The budget also has less stress from the gap in state funding for special education. Since the 2007-2008 school year, special education spending in the Rochester district has more than doubled — from about $20.2 million to about $44.8 million in 2016-2017. The gap in state funding has almost doubled in that time — from about $8.4 million to more than $16 million.

Lawmakers set aside extra funding toward special education to address the gap, known as a cross subsidy.

“It was getting bigger and bigger,” Muñoz said. “The only way you can make it up is to take it out of the general fund.”

Joe Ahlquist / 

The Honkers' Daniel Silva (27) throws a pitch during a Northwoods League baseball game against Mankato Wednesday, June 19, 2019, at Mayo Field in Rochester.

Dutch health care giant to move into One Discovery Square
 jkiger  / 

A Dutch health care giant is the latest company to line up space in the One Discovery Square complex in downtown Rochester.

Royal Philips, an Amsterdam-based firm that works in a variety of health care markets such as medical devices and services, confirmed today that it plans to open a Med City office in the recently opened 89,000-square-foot One Discovery Square complex, on the corner of Fourth Street and Second Avenue Southwest.

“We are looking for close collaboration and proximity to customers, partners, academic institutions and other leaders in the space, who can help us drive innovation in health technology,” stated Philips North America’s Public Relations Director Silvie Casanova in an email. “As part of this strategy, Philips can confirm that we will be opening a new research space by the end of the year at One Discovery Square, in Rochester, MN, enabling the Mayo Clinic and Philips to further secure collaboration and innovative research.”

As a sign of the deal, Mayo Clinic CEO Dr. Gianrico Farrugia recently presented a painting of the One Discovery Square center to Philips CEO Frans van Houten.

“Royal Philips and Mayo Clinic are joining forces to advance research in medical imaging technology aimed at improving imaging effectiveness and the experience for patients around the world," stated Mayo Director of Media Relations Karl Oestreich by email following Phililps' confirmation. "This is another step toward making southeastern Minnesota a hub for biomedical activity.”

Minneapolis-based M.A. Mortenson developed the new One Discovery Square center on land owned by Mayo Clinic.

“Philips’ tenancy in One Discovery Square is an affirmation of the promise of Discovery Square itself. Acting as home to small companies and big ones, One Discovery Square — and its progeny — is enabling new levels of collaboration between and among Mayo Clinic, its commercial partners, educational institutions and many others,” stated Mortenson project manager Jeremy Jacobs in an email.

Specific details about Philips’ plans for One Discovery Square, such as what work will be done there or how many employees will be based there, are not known yet.

Philips does have a long history of working with Mayo Clinic and its related companies.

In 2018, Philips acquired VitalHealth, “a population health management company” co-founded by Mayo Clinic.

It’s also a partner working with Rochester-based Ambient Clinical Analytics, a Mayo Clinic-backed software firm created by local medical researchers and Al Berning.

This is the latest tenant announced for the high-profile center built as part of the Destination Medical Center initiative.

Mayo Clinic will anchor the building by leasing 30,000 square feet spread over the upper levels of the four-story complex.

Space on the first floor is committed to Epic Systems of Wisconsin.

Epic Systems is known for its electronic health records platform, which it recently installed at all of Mayo Clinic’s sites for an estimated $1 billion.

Epic also owns a data center in Rochester, which it purchased from Mayo Clinic.

While it hasn’t been officially announced, building permits also show a joint partnership between Mayo Clinic and a Chinese firm called WuXi Diagnostics is taking space on the third floor.

A local coffee shop, Café Steam @ Discovery Square, is also brewing up a location within One Discovery Square.

The University of Minnesota Rochester has also signed up for two educational spaces in the complex.

An “Active learning classroom and collaborative space” will occupy 3,800 square feet on the first floor. “Wet” labs will be located on the third floor in a 5,583-square-foot spot.

One Discovery Square represents the first seedling in the what city officials and Mayo Clinic leaders hope will blossom into a 16-block “hub for bio-medicine, research and technology innovation.”

The Discovery Square sub-district is part of the ambitious DMC initiative that is transforming Rochester’s downtown.

“The announcement by Philips to open a new research space in One Discovery Square in the Destination Medical Center district is inspiring. Philips is a multinational leader in health technology with an extraordinarily diverse portfolio,” stated DMC Economic Development Agency Executive Director Lisa Clarke in an email.

For Philips, this new Rochester work space is part of its collaborative strategy.

“This is one of several recent moves to be closer to our partners and innovation hubs, including our original decision to move our Philips Innovation Center and North America Headquarters to Cambridge, to move our business enabling functions to downtown Nashville, where we have created a center of expertise, and moving part of our Sleep and Respiratory business to the downtown Pittsburgh’s Center of Excellence hub at Bakery Square,” wrote Philips’ Casanova.

Jeremiah Program ready to break ground
 Petersen 04  / 

A $1 million contribution has pushed the Jeremiah Program to its fundraising goal for building a Rochester campus after three years of planning and raising money.

As some of its first local participants struggle with homelessness, the nonprofit program plans to have a 40-unit housing complex completed next year.

The $1 million gift from Harper Family Foundation rounded out commitments to move the project forward, with plans to break ground on its $16.5 million campus on July 29.

“This generous gift keeps us on track for transformational programming aimed at single mothers and their families,” said JoMarie Morris, executive director Jeremiah Program Rochester-Southeast Minnesota. “From the first discussions to these final dollars, all sectors of the community have rallied to bring this project to fruition.”

Jeremiah Program is a national nonprofit aimed at ending the cycle of poverty for single mothers and their children two generations at a time. The impetus for bringing the project to the area stemmed from the rising number of low-income, single-mother households, lack of affordable housing and the increased need for a trained workforce.

A dozen mothers and their children are already active in the local program, and 15 more families are waiting to start the empowerment program.

With many aspects of the program in full swing, Morris said the need for the campus housing is amplified.

Nearly a third of the families in the program or waiting to start are facing homelessness.

“There are six families that are essentially homeless who are in couch-hopping-type situations,” she said. “A couple are safe, and a couple are not in the best situation.”

Three other families are in transitional housing but will need to move before the campus is completed in the summer of 2020.

On Tuesday, Olmsted County Commissioner Ken Brown, who sits on the Jeremiah Program board, suggested the county’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority could find a way to secure temporary housing support.

“Rather than lose them and throw them back into the system, because we know we’re going to pay for it someplace, we can give them rental assistance or some way to bridge them,” he said.

Morris plans to attend the July 16 Housing and Redevelopment Authority board meeting to discuss a request.

She said the goal is to keep families on the path toward future success.

“Jeremiah really hits all the hot buttons,” she said. “Our program addresses a career-track education for moms, quality early childhood education, secure housing, training, and support services all on one campus. We bundle critical services to better serve our clients enabling them to do the hard work of breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty. A win for the entire community.”

When completed, the 64,000 square-foot campus will house 40 families and offer wrap-around services. Prerequisite for enrollment includes attending Jeremiah’s signature Empowerment Training.

“This course and our after-care plan are intense,” she said. “The women are building a sisterhood necessary to support one-another and learning critical techniques from coaches for keeping their family stable.”

As efforts move forward, an additional $350,000 fundraising push continues for outfitting the apartments, classrooms, offices and common areas.

“We are so close to creating a space of welcome and promise,” Morris said. “The community continues to rally. We need help to finish this last element of the building project.”