Rochester Commercial Real Estate Development and Investment Summit

screenshot.pngI attended the 2017 Destination Medical Center Real Estate and Investment Summit in Rochester MN.   It was a full day event being hosted at the Mayo Civic Center located on the downtown waterfront of the Zumbro river.   The day would begin with guided walking tours of the new development areas in downtown as well as visit familiar sites around the Mayo buildings and cultural centers of downtown.   This included the Heart of the City,  Discovery Square, Central Station, St. Mary’s Place, and the Downtown Waterfront areas of planned development. The UMR/recreation area was also mentioned on the tour.
Over twenty speakers would take the stage throughout the day to talk about different aspects of the development activities in Rochester.  The speaker roster included:
Mayor Brede, City of Rochester
Doug Holtan, Mayo Clinic
Rob Miller, Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce
Jon Buggy, RSP Architects
David Vigliotta, Seventhwave
Joe Weis, Weis Builders
Jamie Sundsbak, Collider
Chris Puchalla, Iron Point Partners
Jeanine Gangeness, Winona State University
Nick Pompeian, Realty Growth Incorporated
Kent Roers, Roers Investments
Tom Leimer, Knutson Construction
Lisa Clarke, Destination Medical Center, Economic Development Agency
Richard Freese, City of Rochester
Patrick Seeb, Destination Medical Center, Economic Development Agency
Mac Hamilton, Hamilton Realty Inc
Bob Lux, Alatus LLC
Rick Fenske, Weis Builder
Nate Stencil, Stencil Group
There where many diverse stories of investment, development, and innovations that spanned industry, community, and transportation.   They investments around infrastructure are very future forward in terms of next generation solutions.  The city is also attracting a fair amount of international investment.
The day concluded with a large networking session and then the final ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new expansion of the Mayo Civic Center.   The amount of energy, interest, investment, and mindshare that the community shares was both visible and felt in all the interactions.   The depth and breadth of the vision into the future also sets a high bar for other city planners.   My steps involve a number of follow-on meetings in Rochester that will explore the best practices around building economic engines around innovation, education, and exchange that can amplify the great progress already underway.
More pictures in the event gallery



Beginning Cluster Development


I participated in the economic development roundtable webinar focused on Cluster development.   Guest speakers were from Cluster Navigators.  The conversation was exploring how to get cluster development programs underway in your local area.  The speakers have published a 12 step handbook and process image of the journey.  This interactive session allowed a great Q&A dialogue across a wide number of economic development attendees.
Check out Cluster Navigators:
Photo Galleries:

Summary: International Conversations In Innovation

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The past year involved a great number of international conversations they were exploring investment and practices in innovation centers in the United States with the goal to integrate them to centers back in the country of investment origin.  Much of the drivers were to build a sustainable bridge of industry collaboration around innovation between the two countries and to integrate education offerings to develop new workforce skill sets.
Here is a quick list of international discussions covered in prior blogs:
Photo Galleries:
Explore the blog further to see national discussions across US cities and Government

Building a Global Workforce

workforce-word-cloudIn working with cities across the globe on economic development, a consistent challenge our team it is consulting on is the continued development of the workforce.   Many cities are already measuring the shortage of skilled talent in their region and can forecast the gap their industries will face.  For young students all around the globe, the current university track is not as clear as it once was in terms of the cost, relevance and value.   This creates quite a dilemma for students and their parents to navigate.  The impact will be significantly felt by industry all over the world who will struggle to successfully operation and compete.   This crisis will involve building new/alternative models that will need to be led by today’s and tomorrow’s industries.

To break down the complexity of this topic let’s highlight a few of the top challenges in this space:

Workforce Gap vs. Next Generation Workforce

Today the metrics already show a growing gap in the skilled workforce needed to support today’s economies.   The existing systems are clearly strained, sluggish and possibly incapable to meet the demand.   This challenge is also compounded by the fact that many of the new job roles and skills (capabilities) in the coming decades are undefined or unknown.  As new industries emerging around natural resources, new energy, healthcare, space, genetics, etc. will require the development of new disciplines, experience, and the ability to create best practices, training, certification. The time gap required to develop these new programs will outpace the demand of these new industries.

Future of Education vs. Today’s Systems

Today’s primary education systems, and especially the university models, are under massive strain financially. Critically important is that they are struggling to deliver on their mission to develop employable graduates with the depth of knowledge and application of that knowledge relevant to today’s industries.  The future workforce also needs to be educated in creative and problem-solving abilities required to be adaptive to meet their career challenges. Many corporations must augment the university education with extensive additional education and expense to onboard new talent.  It is doubtful that the requirements of the industries of the future can be integrated into the strained education systems of today and get a different result.  The path forward will require new alternatives to be created that integrate academic and industry training backed by new funding and organizational models. Today’s model of universities (that have grown to be massive institutions that are not financially viable and ruled by a tenure system) will have to be challenged with a more global consortium model of combined academic fundamentals with industry application.  This also implies that these new global consortiums can provide a global education inclusive of industries and markets and new models of exchange.  Much of the curriculum will need to come from the cutting edge industries that are creating these new frontiers.  Industry will have to fund much of the workforce development, but not through a granting model with no accountability but more aligned with direct global industry internships models where students work and learn throughout their entire education and earn their education and graduate to direct employment.

Degree vs. Life Long Learning

While tomorrow’s workforce can be built with new programs, the current workforce must remain relevant.  New industry talent development models need to create a culture of life-long learning.   Societally we need to shift from thinking about getting a degree at the beginning of your career to having programs that keep you learning throughout your entire career.   As the speed of technology, innovation, and business keep accelerating, the workforce has to be constantly educated.  Thus from the first day of school to the last day of work you are always both working and learning.  This becomes the new norm of what a career is and it is directly integrated into education and employment.  A job is no longer just a job but continued growth opportunity and it is built right into the job roles of the future.

Global Collaboration vs. Going It Alone

Many new industries will arise in different countries around the world, but many of the solutions developed for the global challenges will need to be shared by everyone.   We must build a workforce for the world to be successful as a whole.  Whether you work in the country that is inventing, producing or implementing the solution, the skills will be required to be in all three locations.  Workforce and talent development programs will need to be integrated around the globe in order for new industries to flourish and meet the urgency of some of the shared grand challenges.

Ecosystem vs. Ego-system

North American companies have grown up in a culture of individual corporations making it big and competing against their rivals.  Globally, the notion of collaboration and co-opition are more embraced as many companies pull together to combine resources and compete in markets.   As global companies grow to or exceed the size of today’s leaders, we will see a larger shift to these global co-opition models.  This makes developing your capabilities around researching and engaging your business ecosystem a critical success factor in building tomorrow’s competitive advantage.  It will also be a key underpinning of workforce management and talent acquisition.  In many cases, top talent and capabilities will begin to be shared effectively across organizations.  Those companies that can’t share talent may find themselves isolated, struggling to retain talent, and ultimately be playing competitively against teams of much larger resources and skills.

Independent vs. Employee

There are many increasing trends where individuals are taking the path of being an independent contractor vs. a traditional employee.   Corporations also like the flexibility of leveraging consultants as needed vs. committing to full-time employees with benefits.  It also allows corporations to immediately bring on skills in areas they have not prepared for or an industry disruption where a demand has been created.   Given the speed of business and innovation, this flexibility in talent acquisition can also create an advantage or benefit to the agility needed to compete.   The rise of many online platforms where independents can be found and job needs are posted continues to create a global economy of resources and networks of resources, that can quickly be engaged.  Companies that become the best at leveraging networks of independents and can bring them in and out of their cultures the most successfully will have the advantage in agility and building expert teams on demand.

Manual vs. Automation

The 4th industrial revolution is frequently tied to the increased role of automation and robotics use as a workforce replacement.   While many benefits are gained for industry in the use of automation the concern is that of the human workforce that is displaced.   There are many new industries that will emerge around this shift including the design and development of the robotics and manufacturing systems.   The implementation and maintenance of those systems in operation.  The management and analysis of those systems over their life cycle.   Each of these areas will require the development of a skilled workforce to support the shift.   The challenge arises around the retraining of the existing human workforce either into these new fields or into other job roles.   This effort falls within the lifelong learning topic mentioned above  but has brings an added element of possibly retooling of skillsets.

Current vs. Future Industry

Considering the examples highlighted above, I will pivot the conversation to an opportunity.  These challenges already exist and solutions are already being tried around the world from which we can learn. India, for example, is at the forefront of both environmental grand challenges and industry workforce challenges.  Let’s take a quick look at their situation.

One of the great challenges of India’s economy is in the population growth.  With over 650M under the age of 25 and being on track to hit 1.5B in less than 10 years, India has to create over 50M new jobs for the next 50 years!  On top of that, 70% of those new jobs are not defined yet and will be defined by emerging fields like:

  • 3D printing
  • Nano Technology
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Virtual Reality
  • Space ( $70M for India to go to Mars/$200M for the USA )
  • Transportation
  • Driverless Cars
  • Genetics
  • Communication
  • Robots / Drones

These fields are new and will spawn many adjacent industries to support the primary innovations.  They are also high complexity fields that will require an amazing depth of education and lifelong learning as the industries mature. India already knows it can’t solve these challenges alone, but many of the first experiments and programs will be tried here and this makes it a critical market to study as other countries evaluate their options and to see how people are already collaborating.

To gain a deeper insight into the many fronts where India is facing leading challenges, please see my blog that dives more deeply into their situation:   Future of India

The workforce challenges are real and the solutions will take new cultures of collaboration, new models, and cultural shifts to solve them.  I plan on breaking these challenges down further to explore options that are being pursued in different regions and what models are emerging that will disrupt many of today’s systems.



Economist / Future Work Event Chicago


I enjoyed listening to the high-level panel discuss at the kickoff of The Economist Future Works,  Jobs in the fourth industrial revolution in Chicago.   The panel was a facilitated discussion the needs and challenges around meeting current and future workforce needs.
Here are some quick notes from the discussion:
  • Diversity is not just demographics.   It is also about decision making and the need to have diversity in decision making.
  • What new leaders need:  More analytical,  more tech savvy,  mindfulness, more empathetic ( most important skill)
  • Professions will be disruptive over time.
  • Machine processes are different than human processes  though the processes can intersect / overlap in some areas
  • 4th industrial revolution:
    • earlier revolutions focused on simple blue collar tasks
    • this is a knowledge revolution
  • Have to reinvent learning at every level throughout people’s lives / careers
  • We will have over 2B children entering the global workforce
  • Entrepreneurial mindset; Comfortable with risk,  creative mindset
  • Have to start teaching people how to create their own jobs
  • Current academic models are not working
    • We have not evolved our content we are teaching
    • We are mass educating people instead of optimizing people
    • Change the teacher role from lecture to coach and the sooner the better
    • The teaching methodologies are completely out of date
    • Overhaul how we train teachers
    • Need better global standards and measurement
    • Students make fear based decisions about career vs. aligning with their strengths
  • Role of digital platforms in education will be critical on a global level
There was some Q&A in the session.   One key area was around the funding to change.   Today most public institutions are struggling with declining funding and yet need to change.  Funding for existing models, that are failing, will have to change so that money can be put into new areas.
I have been involved in this conversation for several years now with cities in the USA and globally.   In my next blog, I will introduce some additional factors involved in this space beyond what was discussed today.  (now posted) Building a Global Workforce

Economic Development Meetings In Chicago


I traveled to Chicago again for another set of economic development meetings in Chicago these past few months.  Meetings and topics ranged across public and private sector initiatives and projects across the region.
We had the chance to talk to an array of planners, developers, insurance, and legal parties involved in regional development.
  1. Economic Development: Most of the meetings focused on ED and TOD plans for the city and region in general.   Already in the public domain is the planned express rail project from O’Hare airport directly to downtown Chicago.  While a obvious benefit to travelers and commuters the discuss still revolves around potential routes and trade-offs.   This planning also is related to the O’Hare development activities around a new terminal on the western edge of the airport.   Many developments like this influence our thinking and prioritization around investment in the region around innovation centers and education centers.
  2. Insurance:  We met with reps from several large scale insurance companies that specialize in risk management around large scale projects.   In many cases of transformational projects one of the largest hurtles is the indemnification of high risk zones of construction or environmental hazard.    Many times sites under go development to reclaim a brown field location ( environmental contaminated site) only to have problems emerge many years later and requiring extensive cost to address.   Insurance strategies must parallel the actual project in terms of strategic planning.    A second aspect of interest is the role the risk management companies play in regulating costs in general development in the bidding process.  Large amounts of savings can be negotiated and returned to the project for other high priority needs.
  3. Sites: While sites ranged from downtown, to the airport, and into the southern suburbs, one Chicago success stories is at the Pullman site to the south.   This region was historically and engineered city to support the manufacturing of the Pullman rail cars and to support that community of workers and their family.   This region is undergoing a rennassance on several levels.   Areas of the historical town have been declared a national park preserving the architecture and heritage.   Other areas of the region are being redeveloped in terms of manufacturing and retail which strengthens the economic and destination aspects of the area.   This area of the state is also unique in the USA as being a central hub of transportation.   Multiple interstates,  major rail lines, and the canal from the great lakes to the Mississippi all converge in this county making it a strategic hub in the nations transportation systems.
  4. Brown Field:  We had a change to meet  Dan French from  He is a young entrepreneur who is creating a portal for all listings of Brown Field sites in America.   Brown Field is become a critical consideration for regional master planning in terms of both reposing strategic locations and for the environmental clean up considerations that encumber the land.    Having a thriving portal can both increase the effectiveness of planning, investment and overall awareness of the environmental conditions in regions.   It can also serve long term as a source of critical data to look at trends,  costs, and implications of current and past decisions.

Investment Conversations with Dubai


This month marked a conversation with Dubai for the business development team.   The middle east is actively looking for diversification strategies away from their long-standing oil sector.   North America in is a likely candidate for diversification and strategic partnerships simply due to the stability of the region and wide availability of hard assets / land that could be secured can be secured for long-term investment. This is a very familiar theme that I have encountered with foreign delegations visiting the USA and in many international    The group was able to meet with over ten advisors to the royal family to discuss opportunities past land and real estate opportunities, but to explore interest levels in building new forms of innovation centers, education centers,  and international exchange programs for business, start-ups, and students.
Insights from the ongoing discussions :
  •  The economy in the middle east is rapidly impacted by global events their attention rapidly pivots.  It is only when oil prices are stable that the attention can begin to consider the long-term investment horizon.
  • The interest level is high to build a variety of international exchange services around innovation and education.
  • Bringing new innovation technologies to the middle east is critical to meet many of the challenges facing the region.
  • New education programs are essential to help develop the workforce for tomorrow’s job needs.
  • Basic business services are needed to make international networking easier and supported by a references system.
  • Land and real estate can be viable long term options but the key will be to do in in partnership with direct domestic investment partners in the region.
  • There are many vehicles for moving large amounts of international funds through support the US Federal Commercial Services,  EB-5 Programs, and international banking services.  New emerging companies are creating a next-generation  banking platforms  are also rising that offer interesting capabilities around fund transfer and currency translation that will probably usher in new forms of regulation.
Continued dialogue is planned and the potential to host a foreign delegation is being considered in the coming months.  With potential trips being explored in both directions to have more stakeholders vet the opportunities.