Hospital: from an economic perspective

Published 8:02 pm Friday, January 29, 2010

Keeping a hospital in Pike County is something clearly important for health care reasons, city officials have said.

But, there’s also another aspect to consider: economic development.

From recruiting new business to maintaining and fostering economic growth, key officials said a health care facility is a worthy component.

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“The services and amenities that a city has are extremely important in the recruitment of new business and industry,” said Marsha Gaylard, president of the Pike County Economic Development Corporation. “Some services are more important than others, such as a hospital.”

John Schmidt, past chair of the Economic Development Board, said it wouldn’t be impossible to bring new businesses without a hospital, but it would be a challenge.

“To say a hospital is the only concern based on attracting new business would be misleading,” Schmidt said. “Truly, it is a factor but not the sole determinant. One could attract new opportunities without a hospital but access to one must be within a reasonable distance.”

While it isn’t the only factor, Gaylard said it certainly is one that has helped Pike County recruit in the past.

“Without a hospital, it would have been almost impossible to compete for the quality of industries that we have been able to attract and will continue to attract,” she said.

Some of the areas a business looks at when considering a new location are the future of community growth, existing industry, quality of life, healthcare, education, housing affordability, taxes and safety, Schmidt said.

Thus, in recruiting industry, like the most recent recruitment of CGI, health care was an important part of the process.

“When businesses relocate, the do so with families in various stages of life — infancy, teen years and middle age, as well as an employee demographic mix with special health needs,” Schmidt said.

“So, a community hospital and related health care is key in planning and deciding relocation.”

Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford said the hospital isn’t the first place officials take potential business recruit to visit when they come to town, but it definitely makes the list.

“Some of the places we never miss when we bring somebody into town are the business district, downtown, the university and schools, and we always go to the hospital,” Lunsford said.

“It really is one of the key components of the quality of life.”

Gaylard said the hospital presence is not just key in bringing new business but also in growing the existing businesses.

“It contributes significantly to a community’s economy through expenditures and job creation,” Gaylard said.

“In rural areas, a hospital is often one of the largest employers, providing high-tech, high wage jobs. A rural hospital also provides and anchor for other health care jobs, such as physicians and pharmacists. The economic multiplier or the ‘ripple effect’ of a hospital on a community is tremendous.”