p>Originally home to nomadic tribes, the part of Minnesota that became Rochester was settled as a city in 1854 by George Head, who named it after his New York hometown. Over the following century and a half, the "Young Lion of the West" became a hotbed of scientific and technological research and development. In 2007, Fast Company named Rochester a "City on the Verge," one of 20 world centers of opportunity, innovation, and creativity. "Many local businesses are connected to the world market and need to be on the cutting edge of technology to compete for business and to deliver their services," says Steven Sorensen, managing principal of architecture and engineering firm TSP's Rochester office. Major employers include the Mayo Clinic and IBM, which combine to employ more than 34,500 people.

"We expect to see more growth in the medical industry as the nation changes and modifies the medical services delivery methods," Sorensen continues. Rochester officials estimate that about 20 new technology companies have formed in the city over the past decade alone. This kind of rapid growth has spurred the city to erect the Minnesota BioBusiness Center, an office and lab building created specifically for startups and small companies, and has made the city ground zero for technology and bioscience architectural design.

But Rochester also remains tied to its Midwestern roots. "Though Rochester is a smaller city, this community has an eye for good architecture and an amazing infrastructure that gives us subways, skyways, and more," notes Hal L. Henderson, principal and vice president of Minnesota-based firm HGA. "We understand the opportunity and potential of our combined ideas."


2007 population: 181,536; job growth, last five years: 6.9%.

Office Market

2.2-million-s.f. market about 15 percent vacant; asking rates around $15/s.f.

Residential Market

Single-family home median sale price, October 2008: $158,000.

Market Strengths

  • Strong local economy
  • Diverse business base
  • Revitalized downtown area

Market Concerns

  • Pressure on transportation infrastructure
  • Access to capital for emerging businesses
  • Increasing suburban sprawl


"Partnerships and collaborations between world-class businesses will continue to grow and will result in the development of cutting-edge technologies," predicts Gary Smith, president of Rochester Area Economic Development Inc. "As a result, our economy will continue to grow as companies form, expand, or locate here because they come to value our unique community culture."