Rochester: a global medical travel destination?

In 2013, state officials determined there was a compelling interest to authorise public investments in Rochester, to support inbound medical travel to the Mayo Clinic, which is based in the city. These leaders worked to develop DMC and create the financing tools and public governance structure necessary to carry out their vision of building Rochester as a global medical travel destination.

With US$5.6 billion in projected private investments over the next 20 years, DMC has committed to providing the public financing necessary to build the public infrastructure and other projects needed to support the vision.

The DMC Initiative serves as a public-private partnership, combining private development by Mayo Clinic and other developers, as well as public funding from the City of Rochester, Olmsted County, and the State of Minnesota to facilitate and support public infrastructure.

DMC promotes the City of Rochester, and the County, and the State as a world destination medical centre, to assist patients, caregivers, residents, employees, and visitors in fully experiencing Rochester as a premier destination, while providing extended economic development and opportunities.

One of the goals of DMC is to help develop Rochester to become an international attraction for those who are focused on wellness, not just coping with illness. That includes providing options for improving health and fitness, effectively managing the increase in visitors and residents, and building the social connections that foster a vibrant community.

DMC goals are to: 

  • Create a comprehensive strategic plan with a compelling vision that harnesses the energy and creativity of the entire region.
  • Leverage public investments to attract more than US$5 billion in private investments to Rochester.
  • Achieve the highest quality patient, visitor, and community member experience both now and in the future.

The Destination Medical Centre Economic Development Agency (DMC EDA) spearheads the DMC project. It has identified specific gaps for improvement:

  • The experience gap: While patients are highly satisfied at the Mayo Clinic, touch points in the vicinity demonstrated room for improvement.
  • The quality gap: Members of the local community were found to be less satisfied with the activities and offerings available in Rochester than patients were.
  • The opportunity gap: Residents were found to have high median incomes, but to spend less in their hometown than similarly wealthy residents of similarly sized cities.

Mayo Clinic patients spend only 30% of their time in treatment, and Rochester wants to encourage more local spending from these patients.  DMC has identified eight areas to plug these gaps:

  • Liveable city, retail and dining
  • Hotel and hospitality
  • Entertainment, arts and civic culture
  • Commercial research and technology
  • Health and wellness
  • Learning and environment
  • Sports, recreation and nature
  • Transport

DMC argues that incorporating all these elements will transform Rochester, making it accessible and inviting for patients, companions, visitors, employees and residents.

There are also plans for the transport network to be overhauled, improving public transport and circulation while leaving room for bicycles. The walkable mile from one end of downtown to the other and linear park will encourage patients to recuperate.

Drawing in private investment, innovative start-ups and established businesses, Discovery Square seeks to become the economic engine of DMC. This area will look to attract life sciences businesses while also providing much-needed housing for employees, working at the clinic and in local retail and gastronomy.

Hotels will be designed to accommodate guests undergoing treatment or providing support. Restaurants and coffee shops will tailor their cuisine to their recovery-conscious guests. A cheerful, family atmosphere will be cultivated, providing a healthy, vibrant environment for those wishing to escape the reality of their illness.

Getting funding for these plans has not been easy. The expenditure could be considerable, possibly too much for the relatively small tax base to cover. The project will need both public and private funding, and relies on successful partnerships to bring it to fruition.

The development plan requires the Mayo Clinic to contribute US$3.5 billion over a 20-year period, and has earmarked US$585 million in public funding.  It foresees an additional US$2.1 billion in private investment to be secured by the DMC EDA.