His name may not be on the building. And, technically speaking, his office isn't even located within its sunny, glassy confines.
But Stephen Mahle's imprint on Medtronic's new $95 million headquarters complex in Mounds View for its cardiac rhythm disease management division is evident at just about every turn. Not that the native Minnesotan would admit to it, though.
"This building combined the efforts of a huge group of very, very talented and very capable people,'' Mahle said this week. "I really hope it reflects the needs and aspirations and desires of the employees who work within the space.''
Until just a few months ago, the 62-year-old Mahle supervised those employees, having run the $4.9 billion business -- or parts of it -- for the past 27 years. In August, the president's title was turned over to Pat Mackin, and Mahle was named Medtronic's executive vice president and senior health care policy adviser, a move he said was first discussed several years ago with former CEO Art Collins.
Still, Mahle considers the Mounds View complex -- the largest Medtronic facility in the world -- one of the peaks of his 36-year career with the Fridley-based company, especially since he counts architecture as an area of intense personal interest.
From a practical point of view, the project consolidates about 3,000 Medtronic employees who had been scattered in six facilities throughout the Twin Cities into one campus consisting of three eight-story towers and a five-level parking deck on 84 acres. (The city of Mounds View provided $22.9 million in tax-increment financing for the project.)
Employees began moving in last fall, most of them coming from cardiac rhythm's former headquarters in Fridley, now home to Medtronic's neurological division and the corporate offices.
Today, it all will become official. Medtronic executives, employees and community guests will be joined by Gov. Tim Pawlenty for dedication of the 1.2-million-square-foot project. (Pawlenty will broadcast his 9 to 10 a.m. WCCO-AM radio show from the facility.)
The company won't manufacture the heart defibrillators and pacemakers that are the business' core products at the Mounds View facility -- that work is largely done at Medtronic operations in Puerto Rico. But more than 40 research and development labs are in the complex, as well as two virtual catheterization labs to help train doctors and company field representatives.
Employee amenities include a day-care center, a Caribou coffee shop, a concierge service for employees, a U.S. Bank branch, a CVS pharmacy, a MinuteClinic, a fitness center and a cafeteria with indoor and outdoor eating space.
Conference rooms galore
And, most importantly, at least in Mahle's view: More than 200 conference rooms. Not to mention lots of informal space to encourage face-to-face collaboration among employees.
"In today's working environment, very few things are done by individuals,'' Mahle said. "They're done by teams and in a way that is highly collaborative. Having people jump in their car for 40 minutes before a meeting or communicating by e-mail or phone wasn't that terrifically productive.''
He added, "Creating spaces that allow for impromptu and structured meetings became very important. So we have a combination of many structured conference-room-type settings and also break areas where people can hang out and talk about stuff. We also have community space, the cafeteria, the coffee shop, even the child-care center -- they all lend themselves to the mixing of people.''
The space has capacity for 4,800 employees. Beyond that, there are plans for a second phase that includes a fourth office tower and another parking ramp.
The project was given the go-ahead in 2004, a year before the cardiac rhythm industry began to decline because of a series of safety-oriented recalls by Medtronic and its competitors. More recently, the company recalled a popular defibrillator lead, an insulated wire that connects the device to the heart. Despite the dire headlines, Mahle is confident the business will thrive in the future and has no second thoughts about investing in a new campus. "We've always had these periods of slowdowns and speed-ups,'' he said. (Medtronic's crosstown rival, St. Jude Medical Inc., recently broke ground for a large addition to its Little Canada headquarters.)
Meanwhile, in his new position, Mahle said, he will help craft a strategy for Medtronic to negotiate and participate in the increasingly complicated health care landscape, so that patients who need medical devices have access to them.
Janet Moore • 612-673-7752