Local Destination Medical Center meeting raises
issues as to impact on Fillmore, Houston counties
Wednesday, November 20, 2013 3:38 AM
The future of many rural communities in Fillmore and Houston counties simultaneously became clearer and foggier on the evening of Monday, Nov. 18. Purposeful sentiments of being "all in this together" coincided with the struggles of not knowing the next steps toward that more-united future.
John Murphy, DMC communications consultant, presented information about the Destination Medical Center and fielded questions from approximately 130 attendees on Monday evening. The meeting was open to the public and representatives from cities and organizations throughout Fillmore and Houston counties were present. ANTON ADAMEK/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPERS
Great hope and looming questions took up residence in the Commonweal Theatre in Lanesboro as the Destination Medical Center vision (DMC) paid a visit. At the initiative of the Lanesboro Chamber of Commerce and the Root River Trail Towns organization, communications consultant John Murphy presented information about the "knowns" and "unknowns" of DMC's impact to Rochester and the surrounding area.
The evening began with a pleasant social gathering accented by music, food and conversation. Towns located on the Root River Trail system set up a row of tables informing visitors of their communities and what they have to offer. City, county and organizational representation packed the theater proper by 7 p.m. when Murphy began presenting.
Attendees to the informational meeting and discussion session each had their own interests in DMC. Fillmore County Commissioner Duane Bakke said he wondered how county infrastructure would be impacted.
Dave Schlitter from Fountain spoke of networking between towns and cities and attracting more people to their community.
Chatfield City Administrator Joel Young commented that he and the city were interested in knowing how transportation would change.
Lanesboro Mayor Steve Rahn noted the economic boost to their community may be significant.
Each one of the 130 attendees to the meeting brought something and Murphy commented on the energy and warmth that were present.
Murphy asked, "What is DMC?"
Answering his own rhetorical question, he explained, "It would be as if we hosted the Super Bowl every year for the next 20 years."
Sharing more numbers, Murphy explained the DMC would bring between 35,000 and 45,000 new jobs, 16,000 of those at Mayo Clinic. The projected economic impact over the next 35 years is between seven and eight billion dollars in new tax revenue. Attendees wanted to know what their share would be and how they could be a part of the benefitting area.
Murphy quickly went through the history of the DMC idea and noted the community input process was commencing. He said there were eight teams developing, each of which would focus on specific demands contributing to the overall development of DMC as the world's premier medical destination. These categories include the development of a more livable city; increasing hotel and hospitality access; increasing retail, dining, entertainment, arts and culture access; developing more commercial, research and technology centers; improving the health and wellness of the area; contributing to the learning environment; increasing sports and recreation access; and improving transportation.
Appealing to the Root River Trail Towns representation, Murphy said access to walking and bike trails is the number one thing people want for recreation. He encouraged the attendees to become involved in the creation of the conversation groups addressing those areas of development. These groups will lead out in sharing ideas and culling ideas from others. These ideas will influence the final development plans.
Opening up the meeting for questions, Murphy was asked how all the information and progression of DMC affected the communities represented economically. Murphy said there had been an impact district drafted, but boundaries to that district had not been defined and specific economic impact could not be known for sure. He noted that 15 million people live within a half-day drive to Rochester.
Another attendee said the opportunity for the area was significant and area towns would need to come together to proactively find ways to bring people down to the area.
Another attendee asked who would initiate action on improving transportation to Rochester from the trail communities. Murphy said DMC's six-member Economic Development Authority would be leading changes to transportation and the overall development plan.
Impact to local contractors for construction projects was assumed by Murphy, but he noted he couldn't be sure if all the work would be done by local contractors.
Murphy directed all attendees to visit DMC's website dmc.mn, which contains FAQ sheets and more general information about DMC.
Following the meeting, small groups of attendees lingered, talking to each other about their quick thoughts on the meeting and the overall idea of DMC. The reality of the project seemed more palpable to many, but the questions gone unanswered will continue to generate interest and skepticism about what DMC means to local communities.