Businesses reflect on Mayo Clinic’s impact on local economy

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(ABC 6 News) – The “Keeping Nurses at the Bedside” Act’s future has been pushed into uncertainty after Mayo Clinic warned it would pull billions of dollars worth of state investments if it isn’t amended. If Mayo Clinic does pull those investments, the impacts could be substantial.

ABC 6 News spoke with business owners in Rochester about the supercharged negotiations, and how it impacts them.

“It would probably be appropriate to say that 100% of our business is due to the fact that Mayo Clinic has a presence in Rochester. I, personally, would not be in Rochester were it not for Mayo Clinic,” said Will Forsman, owner of Café Steam.

Forsman has owned Café Steam in downtown Rochester since 2015. He says he sees a steady stream of Mayo Clinic patients and employees every day.

But recent tension between Mayo and the state legislature has Forsman feeling anything but steady.

“When an unstoppable force meets an immovable object – that’s kind of how it feels right now,” he said.

Last week, an email from a Mayo Clinic official was made public – claiming that if the state legislature didn’t change the “Keeping Nurses at the Bedside” Act – the health giant would take billions of dollars in investments out of state.

DFL legislators and the Minnesota Nurses Association are calling it blackmail. They argue that the legislation is necessary to ensure worker well-being and good patient outcomes.

“We’ve had numerous situations where we did not feel the staff was provided adequately, and care was not provided and we weren’t able to maintain safety. It feels more and more like nurses are numbers. We are replaceable,” said Kari Wilkemeyer, a nurse at Mayo Clinic Health Systems in Austin.

Locally, business owners say they’re worried Mayo will pull out of the area – adding that the impact on their business, would be immeasurable.

“If Mayo Clinic started to shrink that would be of great concern to this community. Mayo is clearly the economic engine,” said Kathleen Harrington, the interim executive director of the Rochester Downtown Alliance.

Harrington is also a former Mayo Clinic employee. She says local businesses need state lawmakers to reach a compromise.

“My hope is that the legislature and the governor realize that maybe this is a bridge too far,” she said.

“I certainly hope that there’s a compromise in the future,” added Forsman.