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Mayo Clinic keeps an eye on its competitors as it grows

ALSO: Fergus Falls to offer free all-day kindergarten; Monticello nuke plant shut down for upgrade; Martin County eyes population trends; and more.

Mayo officials are keeping a close eye on public subsidies for other medical centers.

As the Mayo Clinic preps for a two-decade, $5 billion expansion — Rochester voters have already approved a half-cent sales-tax increase for the clinic and the Legislature is being asked for bonding authority for $37 million to upgrade the civic center and $500 million for new roads – Elizabeth Baier of the Rochester Post-Bulletin says Mayo officials are keeping a close eye on similar developments at other medical centers. One of these is the Cleveland Clinic, where the $465 million Cleveland Medical Mart will open in July. The project is publicly financed, will have corporate sponsorship and is expected to bring tens of thousands of visitors each year to northeast Ohio, a region with more than 600 biomedical businesses. Like Mayo, the Cleveland Clinic is also expanding around the country and overseas. Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins built a $1 billion hospital in Baltimore last year with the state contributing $100 million. Another Mayo competitor, the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, has added several new buildings to its main campus and is building a cancer care center.

The Fergus Falls Journal reports that all-day every-day kindergarten will be free starting next school year. The previous fee of $195 per month [$75 per month for students who qualify for reduced-price lunch and free for those who qualify for free lunch] had generated about $75,000 each year. Other options such as Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning-only classes will still be available. The move is in advance of decisions before the Legislature, which is considering free all-day kindergarten for students that qualify for free or reduced lunch.

Xcel Energy has shut down its nuclear power plant in Monticello for refueling, reports the St. Cloud Daily Times. Workers are upgrading the plant’s generating capacity to by 71 megawatts. About 2,000 contractors will help plant staff complete maintenance and construction.

State demographer Susan Brower told folks in Martin County that economic growth, an aging population and more racial diversity will set the trend for Minnesota’s population for decades to come, writes Jenn Brookens of the Fairmont Sentinel. Brower said the state is competitive: “We are 10th in the nation for the number of people with bachelor’s degrees, we have a high GDP, and we’re 12th highest for median household income,” she said. Economic growth in the next 20 years will occur around the Twin Cities and in regional centers such as Mankato, Rochester, St. Cloud and Duluth, as will the population, she said. There will also be more retirees: “In 2002, there was an increase of 91,000 people ages 65 and older. By 2010, that increase was 285,000 people, and will peak at about 335,000 people in the year 2020,” With greater retirement comes a loss of workers, which shows the need for a skilled work force to replace them, Brower said, and that leads to diversity. “About 17 percent of [Minnesota’s] population is a person of color,” Brower said. “We have a big refugee population too, starting with the Vietnamese in the 1970s, the Hmong in the 1980s,” Brower said. “We’ve also seen a large increase from Africa, from counties such as Somalia and Ethiopia. … We’re seeing a lot of Indians with visas to work. About 85 percent of them have bachelor’s degrees.” In Martin County, the population has been in decline since 1980, and median income has gone from $46,156 in 2000 to $40,389 today.

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John Lundy of the Duluth News Tribune has a profile on a couple from Germany that runs the Bauer-Hartz Blood Brain Barrier Group, which seeks treatments for epilepsy, Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases. Bjorn Bauer and Anika Hartz moved to Duluth from North Carolina’s Research Triangle six years ago and formed the research group in  association with the University of Minnesota’s College of Pharmacy. They have brought millions of dollars of grant money to support their work, while Hartz has received the McKnight Land-Grant Professorship. It’s a big deal, said Paul Ranelli, interim chairman of the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Pharmaceutical Sciences. “To have this kind of recognition and these great researchers here is important growth for us,” he said. The blood-brain barrier is composed of cells that separate the body’s bloodstream from the brain. Bauer already was researching the blood-brain barrier’s relationship to epilepsy when they came to Duluth, which did the best job of recruiting the couple. They now are collaborating on additional research involving brain cancer.

A barn fire in Spring Valley killed 1,800 hogs, reports Kim Ukura of the Morris Sun Tribune. The barn and hogs belong to Lowell Moser and Loren Schmidgall of Spring Valley Farms. The Morris Fire Department responded at 8:15 a.m. Saturday, and was soon assisted by firefighters from Chokio, Hancock and Donnelly. Morris Fire Chief Dave Dybdal said early loss estimates are between $600,000 and $700,000, which includes the building and hogs. 

Hormel is resurrecting its spokescharacter, Sir Can-A-Lot.  The character will be used in social media, along with Roy Choi of Kogi BBQ Truck fame, to “rid the world-wide-web of mealtime boredom,” according to the Austin Daily Herald. Throughout March, the animated Sir Can-A-Lot will seek out and respond to users on Spam’s Twitter, YouTube and Facebook pages. “Participants will experience the fun-loving, down-to-earth brand personality firsthand through their dialogue with Sir Can-A-Lot and enjoy new recipes created by Chef Roy Choi,” said Nicole Behne, senior product manager of Spam family of products.

The new owners of the Cup and Saucer Cafe and Sweet Shoppe in Sherburn will be determined through an essay contest, reports Jenn Brookens of the Fairmont Sentinel The restaurant was run by Pat Hanson and her family for more than 60 years, and then closed for about a year and a half. Last fall, Gene Scheppmann re-opened it with the intention of turning it over to someone else. “It’s important for small towns to have a working cafe, and we also knew we needed to help find a new owner,” said Bryan Stading, director of the Regional Center for Entrepreneurial Facilitation. The essay contest idea came from a Bethany Lutheran College business class, which has taken on the project. Essays are to be no more than three pages and address why the applicant should be the new café owner, as well as plans to improve the café and the Sherburn community. Requirements will include the desire to work long hours as well as a strong sense of community. A $75 entry fee will go toward the development of the café  The contest will run through April 8. It can be entered online at

Operation Prom Dress was born from the idea that no girl should miss prom for lack of money to buy a dress, reports Karin Elton of the Marshall Independent. Girls from around the area can receive a free prom dress by e-mailing “Participation is confidential,” said Terrie Lendt of Fields of Grace. Lendt heard about Operation Prom Dress in Sioux Falls and decided to start the project in Marshall. “All girls should be able to have the experience of going to prom and looking nice,” said Lendt, who has three daughters. Many of the donated dresses had been dropped off at Carrow’s Cleaners and never picked up. Carrow’s and Midwest Cleaners are cleaning the dresses. Fields of Grace volunteers are doing the alterations. Carrow’s also offers a tuxedo scholarship. Lendt is working on finding donated shoes and affordable hair styling.