A relentlessly challenging year is over. As we turn the page on 2020 and accelerate into 2021, we long to see an end to the disruption wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. As challenging as it has been, I am encouraged by the continued demonstration of community goodwill and generosity at the start of this new and more hopeful year.

In Rochester, the close of the year marks the end to the first phase of the 20-year plan for the Destination Medical Center (DMC) initiative. It also marks my retirement, bringing full circle my decade-long involvement with DMC. It has been an honor and privilege to be a part of this comprehensive effort since its inception.

Looking back on 2020, a global pandemic did not figure prominently in our contingency planning as the DMC team pursued making Rochester America’s City for Health. However, with the collaboration and resourcefulness of community members, organizations and civic leaders, we met the challenges head-on. Additionally, the DMC Economic Development agency (EDA) engaged independent consultants to model potential impacts COVID-19 could have on the local economy and the DMC Initiative. Their findings will now be incorporated into phase two planning.

Community-wide collaboration remains a cornerstone of Rochester’s spirit and resilience. Consider how a cross section of community partners sprang into action to create Rochester Ready, an effort lending support to retail, hospitality and small business owners so that they could continue to provide a safe experience for visitors, patients and residents.

Additional evidence of Rochester’s resilience is found in DMC’s progress on key performance goals. Through its first five years, I am pleased to report that DMC is meeting or exceeding targets for attracting private investment ($963 million), creating quality jobs (more than 7,000) and boosting the city’s tax revenues. Our years of transportation planning have resulted in the creation of a roadmap to meet future transit needs – a roadmap that includes pedestrian and bicycle plans. The physical transformation of Rochester envisioned 10 years ago is impressively evident with the addition in 2020 of new hotels, restaurants and mixed-use apartment complexes. The reimagining of Peace Plaza is underway to create a welcoming public space in the heart of our city. Discovery Square continues to evolve as Minnesota’s bio-medical research and technology innovation campus, and with the construction of Discovery Square 2, Rochester’s attraction as a destination for innovators and entrepreneurs is further enhanced. The adjacent Discovery Walk will be an inviting space for residents and visitors to gather, while also serving as another avenue for economic development activity.

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Progress on this scale does not happen without partners. Appreciation must be extended to our collaborators at Mayo Clinic, the City of Rochester, Olmsted County and the state of Minnesota, in addition to numerous community partners whose involvement in DMC has helped transform the city.

Thanks also to the team that helped win early public funding for DMC, as well as those who contributed to DMC’s initial Development Plan. A special thanks to the DMC Corp. and the DMC Economic Development Agency boards and the outstanding DMC EDA staff.

Although my tenure is ending, my enthusiastic support for DMC will not. My husband and I are proud to be part of this community. We will be avid viewers of DMC webinars, attentive listeners to DMC’s new Urban Evolution podcast, participants during community celebrations, and champions of Rochester’s recognition as a global destination for health and wellness, a model community, and an economic development engine for the entire state of Minnesota.

Lisa Clarke has been executive director of the Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency since 2014. She retired from this position on Jan. 4.