Dayton kicks off Destination Medical Center work

  1. Listen The Mayo Clinic Destination Medical Center launches in Rochester

    Aug. 9, 2013 MPR’s Tim Nelson reports

Gov. Mark Dayton came to Rochester this afternoon to officially launch what he’s calling one of the biggest economic development efforts in state history.

He convened the Destination Medical Center Corporation (DMCC) board. That’s the eight member public, non-profit corporation that’s going to steer the course of the nearly $6 billion dollar development over decades to come. (He doesn’t serve on the board itself, but appointed four members and called it to order today.)

“The Mayo Clinic is the platinum jewel in Minnesota’s social and economic crown,” Dayton said afterward. “(It is) the largest private employer in the state, providing good quality jobs and doing tremendous work every day to save people’s lives, here in Minnesota and all over the world,” Dayton said. “I’m very very proud that the state of Minnesota seized this opportunity.”

That said, by the end of the day it still wasn’t any clearer what Rochester plans to do with the money, including $3.5 billion in investment by the Mayo Clinic and $2 billion in proposed private development. The DMCC board will dole out $585 million in taxpayer money from the state, county and city to “leverage” those billions, according to Lisa Clarke, the Destination Medical Center administrator for the Mayo Clinic.

It may take years to find out what that will buy.

“It’s not for me to say,” Dayton said. “It’s going to be better, it’s going to be newer, its going to be more attractive, it’s going to be more dynamic, and its going to have more people with more jobs.”

He defended the hundreds of millions of dollars of aid for Rochester, a scale which he conceded was “virtually unprecedented.”

“There are some people in the Legislature and elsewhere that say there’s just no role for government in partnering with the private sector in economic development and creating jobs,” Dayton said. “This example proves the fallacy of that view.”

That said, he’ll be able to keep a close eye on the results. He appointed his chief of staff, Tina Flint Smith, to the DMCC board. The other seven members of the panel, including her old boss, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak (by phone) picked her to serve as chair.

Smith said the board expects to have a work plan in place this fall to schedule what they need to accomplish. By April, she said, they’re going to have a larger “development plan” drafted to submit to the city, and then formally approve.

“So the development plan is a road map, really for how Rochester will develop and grow to serve the goals of the Destination Medical Center initiative,” Smith said. “And it’s against that road map of the development plan that this board will be able to evaluate individual projects. And we’ll be able to ask ourselves, okay, does this advance the goals of the development plan? Is it maybe a good idea but doesn’t advance those goals? And that’s how we’re going to make decisions about the public resources that we’re going to be investing.”

The board will also be tracking ongoing development in Rochester. The city has to reach a $200 million threshold of new development to earn the $327 million in state aid the Legislature and the governor pledged this spring.