Rochester is a mid-sized commercial and agricultural center with a diverse economy. But its biggest claim to fame is the renowned Mayo Clinic medical research and practice center, which covers some 18 city blocks in the downtown core. This is a major economic driver as well as a strong healthcare presence in the area. Mayo and its related facilities give Rochester the best healthcare statistics and rating in the country, and brings a strong educational presence as well.
Other notable employers include IBM and some agribusiness and food processing industries. Although the population exceeds 1 million, Rochester has a small-town feel, and is known especially for its good park system and low crime rates. Missing amenities or services are available in Minneapolis-St. Paul, 80 miles to the northwest. The nearby Dorer state forest, known for its hardwood forests, provides outdoor recreation. Downsides include harsh winters, some unemployment outside the healthcare industry, and a general lack of entertainment and activities.
Rochester, in the shallow Zumbro River Valley, is surrounded by rolling and wooded terrain ranging from 1,000 feet to 1,300 feet in elevation. The climate is continental with large seasonal temperature variations and four definite seasons. Summers are pleasant but can be warm. Winters are cold and variable with periods of bitter cold and regular snow cover. Rochester lies near a storm track and the northern edge of the influx of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, a position resulting in strong storms year-round. Flooding can occur on the Zumbro River in spring and summer. First freeze is late September, last is early May.