Jerry Williams talks about the impact of Destination Medical Center on Spring Valley during the annual banquet of the Spring Valley Area Community Foundation Saturday night. DAVID PHILLIPS/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Jerry Williams talks about the impact of Destination Medical Center on Spring Valley during the annual banquet of the Spring Valley Area Community Foundation Saturday night. DAVID PHILLIPS/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE

Jerry Williams started a conversation about the impact of Destination Medical Center on Spring Valley Saturday night at the annual banquet of the Spring Valley Area Community Foundation.

His challenge to the more than 100 guests present at the banquet is to continue the conversation.

"I hope you don't look at this as a one and done experience," he told the crowd assembled in the Spring Valley Community Center. He advised local government, organizations and citizens to discuss what makes Spring Valley, Wykoff and Ostrander livable communities that will attract the new people coming to the area as DMC unfolds.

The conversation started in Rochester in 2009 when a small group gathered around a table and came up with the idea of Destination Medical Center as part of its vision for the region. Williams, former superintendent of schools in Rochester, wasn't a part of that group, but he became involved in 2010 when organizers sought $20 million of sales tax money that the city wanted the state to direct back to the Rochester area. Williams headed the committee on the Rochester sales tax option.

At that time, he had no idea DMC would morph into the initiative that now has Mayo Clinic investing $3.5 billion in Rochester and private enterprise investing another $1.2 billion over the next 20 years.

A third component, which received the most attention, is public money of $585 million for projects that further the public good, such as infrastructure, site preparation and transportation. Rochester is paying in $128 million and Olmsted County $40 million while the rest is coming from the state.

Williams pointed out that none of the money is going to Mayo Clinic or private businesses and it will only be paid out after the Mayo and private investment is made. He also noted that $7.8 to $8.2 billion in new state taxes will be going back to St. Paul in the next 35 years.

There are many unknowns about DMC because there are many unknowns about the future of health care, he pointed out. Even Mayo Clinic doesn't know what it is going to build several years from now and likely some of the new jobs DMC is creating haven't even been invented yet.

The Affordable Care Act is creating many changes, but health institutions don't know the impact on insurance issues, money issues, quality issues and other related issues. Still, they are going to have to adapt to the changing health care environment, he explained.

At the same time, the world is flattening for health care with institutions expanding across the globe and options popping up - even in shopping malls where procedures that were once done in specialized institutions are now offered.

He showed a map of the globe with major medical facilities identified. For example, Cleveland Clinic is not only in Ohio, but also located on the West Coast, in the Southeast and in the Middle East on the other side of the globe.

"The question then becomes why on a Monday in January when the wind chill is 55 degrees below zero would somebody come here for their medical care? What happens to bring them here?" asked Williams.

DMC is an initiative to secure Mayo Clinic's economic future and make the area a premier medical destination known throughout the world, he said. In the process, 35,000 to 40,000 new jobs and billions of dollars in new sales revenue will be created.

"DMC is exclusively about economic development. It's not about health care. Mayo Clinic does a good job with that and is going to continue to do that," said Williams. "DMC is about economic development."

It's not just about economic development in Rochester, he explained, as many of those people are going to choose to live in other areas and many patients will choose to spend time outside Rochester between appointments.

"It's going to take partnership between the Mayo Clinic, Rochester and the surrounding communities. This is a regional effort," said Williams. "Yes, there's no question the epicenter of DMC is going to be in downtown Rochester. But, this is like throwing a rock into the middle of a pond, and you've got all these ripples coming out all over the place. This is going to impact this entire region going over to western Wisconsin and northern Iowa."

The Spring Valley area is already feeling that ripple. Statistics from 2011 show 412 residents of Spring Valley commute to work in Rochester every day. However, many other communities within a 75-mile radius send commuters to Rochester, even from as far away as Coon Rapids, which had more people commuting to Rochester than Spring Valley.

So the question he posed to local residents is why would a new employee looking for a place to live choose Spring Valley, Wykoff or Ostrander? That is something local residents will need to discuss since not all those 35,000 to 40,000 new workers are going to choose to live in Rochester.

"Why will they live here instead of Chatfield or instead of Stewartville or instead of Kasson or instead of Cannon Falls?" he asked. "Why are they going to live here?"

In Rochester, a community forum was held last Tuesday to solicit input from the community and get the conversation going about DMC.

The next step in the process is to reveal the plan for DMC later this year for a 60-day review and then get approval by the governing body sometime around the end of the year or early next year.

In the community discussion that is engaging Rochester residents now, there are what Williams called eight "pillars" that are at the core of turning Rochester into the world's premier destination medical center.

They are: livable city, retail, dining; hotel and hospitality; entertainment, arts and culture, civic; commercial, research, technology; health and wellness; learning environment; sports, recreation and nature; and transportation.

He said leaders in the Spring Valley area can engage the community in the same process, at a smaller scale that is just as meaningful to the local people as is the process in Rochester to those residents.

"Everything we are doing in Rochester with our community can happen right here in this room," he said.

People his age used to just take a new job and then adjust their outlook to the community, he explained. Now, young people base their decision not only on the job, but also where they will be living. They consciously or subconsciously make a decision to move to a community based on those eight factors, said Williams.

Just as in Rochester, where he feels transportation is unsustainable to handle the growth of DMC, there are some issues in the Spring Valley area that need to be addressed.

"You can't solve the problems unless we get the conversation going," he said. "We have to have those kinds of conversations."

He noted that the Spring Valley area has mapped its assets through the formation of the community foundation, but perhaps it should take another look, using the eight pillars as a framework. He looked around the large hall and said he could envision all the walls full of large paper sheets listing assets.

Williams pointed out that the city is receiving $250,000 of the Rochester sales tax for economic development. His committee campaigned to include the surrounding communities in the distribution of the sales tax, something met very positively by Rochester residents. He suggested the city make good use of the $250,000 in Rochester sales tax money so that projects can enhance the livability of Spring Valley to emphasize its small town vibrancy.

"We don't have to talk about billions here, but we do have to talk about good investments," he said.

He also noted that strong communities surrounding Rochester can also help Rochester - that all the communities are interdependent.

"We can all be stronger. When Rochester is stronger, Spring Valley is stronger, Ostrander is stronger, Wykoff is stronger. When you're stronger, Rochester is going to be stronger," he said. "We need a workforce. That is the biggest impediment going forward - having a quality, well-trained workforce."

He pointed out that the community has a good start in building for the future. He noted it could easily play on its strengths, as its educational system, with College in the Schools and Project Lead the Way certification, is attractive, as are the city trails, music in the park, the unique downtown and transportation, which includes three commuter buses and a new local bus.

He congratulated the foundation for pulling the community together Saturday night and hopes the community can pull together in a parallel effort as DMC is put into effect across the entire region.

"Use tonight to continue the conversation," he emphasized. "If you don't, you will be playing catch-up. This train has left the station. You've got two options. You can stand and wave goodbye to the train or you can jump on for the ride. It's going to be an exciting journey going forward."