Hancock County/Bay-Wave officials to create ‘Healthcare Industry Zone’
By Geoff Belcher
Aug 16, 2013, 20:16
Two of the architects behind Gov. Phil Bryant's "Health Care Master Plan" on Friday told Hancock County and municipal leaders that creating a healthcare development zone in the area could create nearly 1,000 jobs and have a $130 million impact in the area within the next seven years.
Local leaders have a narrow window of opportunity to act on the plan, consultant Stephen B. Coulston of Broaddus Planning, said Friday during an informational meeting at the Hancock County Board of Supervisors office in the Hwy. 90 government complex.
"It isn't going to happen unless the community has a plan," Coulston said.
At the Governor's Health Care Economic Development Summit in Jackson on Thursday, Bryant announced that the Hancock County/Bay-Waveland area was one of 12 "Health Care Zone Master Plan Communities" in the state.
“The cooperation of private sector leaders and Mississippi’s elected officials is producing great opportunities for this state,” Bryant said Thursday.
“Mississippi is unique in its approach to applying health care zones and clustering to economic development, and today I am proud to announce 12 communities have been certified through the Mississippi Development Authority as certified Health Care Zone Master Plan Communities.”
In 2012, Bryant enacted the Health Care Industry Zone Act to spur health care development within five miles of major acute care hospitals. Under the act, businesses like laboratory testing facilities, medical supply distributors and biotechnology research facilities that either make an investment of at least $10 million or create a minimum of 25 full-time, permanent jobs within the health care zone are eligible for certain tax incentives.
During the 2013 session, Gov. Bryant expanded the act to include health care investment in communities that developed a certified health care master plan in lieu of meeting the original law’s acute-care bed count.
Coulston and Sean Garretson of Pegasus Planning and Development – both based in Austin, Tex. – on Friday told local leaders that the Hancock County and Bay-Waveland area was in a prime location to grow its own healthcare industry zone due to a number of factors, including climate, educational facilities and proximity to urban centers.
Hancock Medical Center would act as the anchor of the development zone, with additional centers in downtown Bay St. Louis and Waveland, Garretson said.
Coulston recommended that local leaders also approach state legislators about amending the "five-mile radius" language in the act, since much of the five-mile radius of HMC is in the Mississippi Sound. He recommended including the Port Bienville industrial park, Stennis Tech Park corridor and Diamondhead.
In addition to healthcare providers, the area should also attract research and development, assisted living facilities and healthcare manufacturing and distribution businesses, Garretson said.
"Manufacturing and distribution, I think, would be low-hanging fruit for y'all," Garretson said.
Coulston said to enact the plan will require a great deal of cooperation between community leaders, as well as improvements in infrastructure, housing and mixed-use development.
"These opportunities are very real,” Garretson said. “It's a matter of how much you all want to go out and capture your share."