The woman behind Rochester, Minnesota’s $6 billion rebirth

A pair of tennis shoes tucked into her bag, a water bottle at the ready, Lisa Clarke steps into a meeting in a busy morning full of them and drops a well-worn line.

It’s a good day to be in Rochester,” she says, flashing a broad smile at those in attendance.

A packed schedule came with the job, as did a long title: executive director of the Destination Medical Center’s Economic Development Agency (DMC).

In 2009, when Mayo started talking about the health care environment, the DMC began to take shape. Clarke was there from the beginning.

Mayo, in order to stay competitive with places like Johns Hopkins and the Cleveland Clinic, said it needed a massive reinvestment program that included a public commitment to make Rochester a first-class city.

In 2013, the Legislature approved the 20-year project: $585 million in public funds for infrastructure fixes with $3.5 billion in Mayo investments, and another $2 billion in private investment.

It was Clarke who helped marshal DMC through the Legislature, said Gary Smith, president of Rochester Area Economic Development Inc.

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