When people talk hospitals, they are usually talking about access to health care. However they should add to that sentence "and access to jobs." Hospitals are often the largest employer in communities along with the school system. In addition, they are often good community partners as philanthropists, volunteers, and sponsors. Cities are realizing that advances in health care and the facilities that support them can build a new economy--and a rich one at that. This week's Economist includes an article on Rochester, MN and the Mayo Clinic. Mayo's revenues in 2006 were $6.3 billion. Add to that the additional dollars spent in hotels, restaurants, etc. and the economic impact is huge. Likewise Cleveland with the Cleveland Clinic and other hospitals grosses revenues in 2006 of $4.4 billion.
It is not just about your average hospital of course. These medical centers have developed specialties that are sought by patients from all over the world. There have been heavy investments in research and development. One only has to think for a moment to come up with other names: M.D. Anderson in Houston of Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York. However other cities are getting into this are big time. Grand Rapids, MI is and has developed a huge health and biohealth complex. My own home town of Birmingham, AL, has a world-class medical center and specialties ranging from orthopedics to genetics. What these complexes offer to communities is an opportunity to change the future. In order for them to grow or even be sustained, there needs to be a well-trained local workforce, a high quality of life, and an opportunity for entrepreneurs to spin off new technologies and start-ups. In other words, start thinking about how we can capitalize our first-rate health care system in this global economy.