Project aims to boost technology start-ups in Rochester

Published 1:04 pm Saturday, January 14, 2017

ROCHESTER — A multibillion-dollar, 20-year economic development project in Rochester would help the world-renowned Mayo Clinic compete for both patients and entrepreneurial talent.

The goal of Destination Medical Center is to make the city a magnet for technology start-ups and entrepreneurs. It also aims to diversify the region’s economy by attracting new businesses.

“One of the questions any entrepreneur let alone an investor asks is, ‘Is this company located in a spot where we are actually able to scale and grow the business?’” said Michael Gorman, managing director with the Eden Prairie-based venture capital firm Split Rock Partners.

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He said while expanding the city will face the same competitive pressures as other metro areas trying to entice tech-savvy people.

Jamie Sundsbak, an entrepreneur and former Mayo Clinic researcher, said the city’s risk-averse culture has held it back.

“When you have a large medical institution like the Mayo Clinic — a world renowned, top medical institution in the world — you get that way by eliminating risk,” he said. “If you look at some of the entrepreneurial communities, risk is what they are excited about.”

To adapt, Mayo Clinic is making some changes, including lifting policies that blocked employees from owning or holding an executive position with a medical company.

Jim Rogers, Mayo Clinic’s chair of business development, said the health care company recently announced Discovery Square, a downtown tech park aimed to encourage daily collaboration among Mayo Clinic employees, start-ups and major medical firms.