Need for increased medical service drives development of local healthcare industry
Just like destination shopping at IKEA and the Premium Outlets draws people and money from outside city limits, destination healthcare may be the next stage in diversifying growth for Round Rock.
“I think this could be the biggest economic development opportunity we have had in a really long time,” Alan McGraw, Round Rock mayor pro tem, said, “because of everything that comes with healthcare. It’s not just the hospitals. It’s all the support. The employment opportunities are limitless and it’s not tied to retail or Dell. We don’t have to have a high tech boom. There is always a need for healthcare.”
When Dell moved to Round Rock in 1993, the economy grew because of the sales tax revenue generated, which lowered property taxes for homeowners. The company also brought an increased workforce.
The city realized a need to diversify its tax base and dependence on Dell, which directed Round Rock’s efforts to become a local leader in retail shopping. Other companies and industries have also moved to the area. Today, Round Rock businesses support more than 50,000 jobs. With jobs come people and a need for medical services.
The City Council and community leaders believe they can catapult the healthcare movement to make Round Rock known for its medical and research facilities and services.
“[Healthcare] will serve the existing population while appealing to outlying areas for their medical needs,” Mark Hazelwood, president of Seton Medical Center Williamson, said.
At the Round Rock City Council winter retreat in February, a panel of local medical leaders representing Scott and White, Seton, St. David’s and Lone Star Circle of Care met with council members to discuss building a greater medical presence in the city.
Hazelwood outlined the elements required to attract the medical industry: high population density, higher-priced homes, complete infrastructure including transportation and opportunities for continuing the education of a medical workforce.
The city is prepared to meet many of these needs, according to Ernie Bovio, CEO of Scott and White University Medical Center.
“Most of the things are already done,” Bovio said at the retreat. “You already have a good quality of life.”
One doctor’s office is equal in economic force to a $1 million industrial factory, according to Charley Ayres, director of business retention and expansion for the Round Rock Chamber of Commerce. That includes all the support services and employment a physician’s office would require, which is one reason why city officials value the possibilty of more clinics and medical centers opening.
“[Destination healthcare] brings in intellectual capital,” Round Rock City Manager Jim Nuse said. “The people who come here for [medical] jobs have a strong skill set and are a better-educated workforce, which increases Round Rock’s quality of life.”
Within just the last year, medical and healthcare options have increased twofold. Last May, St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center opened a second catherization lab and new heart operating room and expanded the size of its facility.
Scott & White University Medical Campus opened its clinic last fall, with plans to add a 72-bed hospital in July, while Seton Medical Center Williamson will open the first phase of its hospital with 181 beds in early 2008.
“It takes on a life of its own,” Ayres said. “We get new hospitals and then clinics come. It starts breeding.”
Ayres points to America Development and Investments Ltd. breaking ground in La Frontera on Reliant Rehabilitation Hospital Central Texas, a 71,800 sq. ft. inpatient rehabilitation and skilled nursing center, opening in 2008.
Just next door, Austin Regional Clinic will move from its Mays Street location into a new 250,000 sq. ft. space late this summer.
Expanding the medical industry also demands an expanded workforce. On University Boulevard with the two new hospitals, Texas State University’s Round Rock Higher Education Center wants to build a new school of nursing next year. In January, Scott & White donated $250,000 to support the effort and the Texas Legislature has also approved tuition revenue bonds for project financing, but had to approve debt service on the bonds this spring.
The city and economic developers plan to continue expanding from the current infrastructure. Just at the beginning of April, Ayres and the Chamber’s vice president of economic development, Joe Vining traveled to San Jose, Calif. to visit with potential biomedical and medical manufacturing project managers, in an effort to attract more jobs in the healthcare sector.
“We want $39,000 or more a year jobs here,” Ayres said. “We believe quality jobs bring quality talent, which is given back into the community and that is what establishes our economic base.”
Reliant Rehabilitation Hospital Central Texas
- Who: A partnership of physicians who practice in the Austin, Round Rock and Georgetown areas and Reliant Healthcare Partners, Inc.
- Where: Northeast corner of CR 172 and Hesters Crossing in La Frontera
- What: Three story free-standing 71,800 sq. ft. inpatient rehabilitation and skilled nursing specialty hospital
- Offers treatment for those who have suffered from stroke, neurological, brain injury and other rehabilitation-appropriate patients
- Nursing, therapy and ancillary services
- 50 private inpatient rehabilitation beds, 25 private skilled nursing beds
- Two inpatient rehabilitation gyms
- An outpatient rehabilitation center for physical, occupational and speech therapy
- A pool
- When: Opens early 2008
Foundation for Destination Healthcare
In February, Market Street Services Inc. provided a competitive assessment to the City of Round Rock highlighting target industries for the city. Along with other areas such as technology and clean energy, they highlighted healthcare.
Healthcare and Biotechnology
“Round Rock is currently underserved in many sub-sectors of health care services. Focusing on growing this field is a means of growing jobs, as well as improving access to health care services in the community, which can be an important factor in quality-of-life-based location decision making.”
Source: Market Street Services Inc.