Rochester Area Builders, Inc. (RAB) is an association made up of 435 businesses involved in construction and all aspects of home improvement throughout Rochester, MN, and all of Southeastern Minnesota.

They are committed to professionalism within the building and home improvement industries and to providing the community with the information needed to make sound decisions in home building, commercial construction, and home improvement.

Winona State University recently partnered with RAB to provide professional development opportunities for two RAB events.

At RAB’s annual meeting, construction expert and national speaker Tom Esch presented “Personal Accountability and Power: How to Build a Stronger Safety Culture”. 

Tom shared strategies for how to achieve exceptional safety and a healthy work culture:

I believe the best tool for safety is good communication.

This event focused on one of the most overlooked aspects of safety, which is the ability to hold others accountable without burning relational bridges.

Tom Esch

This engaging presentation highlighted how to have uncomfortable conversations with clarity, empathy, and a solid backbone.

RAB Executive Director John Eischen also shared:

We’re always looking for an engaging and relevant topic and speaker for our annual meeting.

Tom’s presentation was the perfect fit for this year’s meeting.

John Eischen

Kate Noelke, Minnesota State Chancellors Fellow for Mental Health, met with the RAB’s Young Professionals Group and presented “Workplace Mental Health & Wellness”.

Recognizing that challenges to mental and emotional wellbeing are increasingly common among young adults in the U.S., Kate discussed how mental health challenges impact people, families, organizations, and work culture.

The group became aware of how to make a difference in their organizations and gained important skills in listening without judgement.

RAB’s Member and Community Engagement Director Rebekah Fierst said:

I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback from our young professional attendees, including ‘That was the best professional development presentation we’ve had to date!’

Rebekah Fierst

WSU recognizes the construction industry as a major economic driver in our region and looks forward to growing the partnership to support RAB and area construction businesses.

About the Consultants

Tom Esch, President and CEO of Esch Consulting, LLC

Tom Esch is based in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Tom has trained over 8,500 construction professionals in demo saw safety and in communication skills.

He has been the lead consultant for dozens of projects with construction companies, both public and private, interested in improving communication and culture in the interest of safety.

Tom has advanced training in both Conflict Resolution and Organizational Development and a master’s degree in Theology from the University of Notre Dame.

Tom’s company helps contractors build their businesses while preventing serious injuries by improving the communication skills of their leaders.

Kate Noelke, Minnesota State Chancellor's Fellow for Mental Health

Kate Noelke recently began a position with Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Chancellor’s Fellow for Mental Health.

She previously served as Director of Integrated Wellness at Winona State University.

In her day-to-day, she focused on coalition building for innovative ways to support the dynamic intersections of well-being and success, across cultures, experiences, values, and health conditions.

Using a public health approach rooted in population-based equity initiatives, Kate strengthens access to networks of support on campus and across Minnesota.

Kate is also a passionate Youth and Adult Mental Health First Aid trainer, with over 1,000 successful students!


About Rochester Area Builders, Inc.

Rochester Area Builders, Inc., chartered in 1953, is a professional organization of commercial & residential builders, remodelers, developers, and associated businesses dedicated to advancing the building industry in Southeast Minnesota.

We are the trusted voice of the industry, providing leadership, education, networking, and information resources to our members, community, and government officials.

About WSU-Adult & Continuing Education

Adult and Continuing Education (ACE) at Winona State University offers a wide range of non-credit and for-credit course offerings to enhance professional development.

Whether through online learning, immersive classroom experiences, or hands-on training, WSU strives to meet student needs, so that they can reach their personal and professional goals.

For more information on continuing education and workforce-customized training opportunities at WSU, contact Julie Kiehne at

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