The renovated Conley-Maass building reopened in downtown Rochester last week with a restaurant, offices for two local companies and a shared office space for start-ups. The $2.2 million renovation has been considered one of the first examples of the changes underway in Rochester as the Mayo Clinic expands in a massive push known as Destination Medical Center.

The Mayo expansion, along with private and public projects, have been in various stages of planning since the DMC launched in 2013.

The privately funded Conley-Maass project is the brainchild of entrepreneurs Traci and Hunter Downs, two scientists who were drawn to the area when Traci sought treatment from Mayo doctors. Its tenants include Area 10 Labs, Brandhoot, Collider Core and Bleu Duck Kitchen.

Matt McKinney


Loans available to help fix commercial buildings

As part of its quest to revitalize neighborhoods, the city of Duluth announced a new financing program for potential business owners in certain areas of the city.

Loans of up to $50,000 from the Duluth 1200 Fund will be available to help spur new life in older stock commercial buildings and create jobs in Lincoln Park, West Duluth and Spirit Valley. Half the loan balance may be forgiven if certain requirements are met.

The commercial buildings must be owner occupied and businesses must be committed to creating at least two or more full-time jobs within two years, among other requirements. The loans are intended to provide “gap financing” with other lenders, according to a city statement.

A program brochure is available at

Pam Louwagie


Dog wins his third term as mayor by landslide

Who’s a good mayor? Duke the dog is! Yes he is!

Duke, a 9-year-old Great Pyrenees, was swept into office again last weekend for his third term as the mayor of the northwestern Minnesota town of Cormorant.

Duke, who has never made or broken a campaign promise, was the nearly unanimous choice of the crowds that paid $1 per ballot to cast their votes at last weekend’s Cormorant Daze festival. The only opposing vote cast in the race was for Lassie, another local dog, according to WDAY’s election coverage.

Gracious in victory, the incumbent mayor worked the festival crowds, wearing a tiny top hat and a stars-and-stripes bandanna. His fluffy white face adorned signs and buttons around the village with a population of less than two dozen. The candidate had no comment about a possible bid for a fourth term next summer.

“I don’t know who would run against him, because he’s done such great things for the community,” Karen Nelson of Cormorant told WDAY.

Jennifer Brooks