3Qs: Blake Wilson, president and CEO, Mississippi Economic Council

Blake-WilsonGov. Phil Bryant, with help from the Mississippi Economic Council, recently held the Health Care Economic Development Summit in Jackson, which centered on how to spur the state’s economy through the health care industry. Blake Wilson, MEC chief executive officer, answered questions from the Daily Journal’s Bobby Harrison.

Q. What is the genesis of the Mississippi Economic Council’s work with Gov. Phil Bryant on health care?

A. Gov. Bryant asked MEC in the fall of 2011 to pursue one of his visions, which Blueprint Mississippi independent research also supported as one of its nine goals to further develop how to make health care an economic development driver in the state. With a grant from the Mississippi Partnership for Economic Development, MEC launched a full-scale economic study and grassroots involvement effort, contracting with the international consulting firm of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank in partnership with Subsidum Healthcare to conduct the study, which was released in October 2012.

Among the recommendations was creation of an organization to pull stakeholders together to achieve results. Gov. Bryant therefore established the Mississippi Health Care Solutions Institute, appointing noted Mississippi cardiologist Dr. Clay

Hays as its first chair, and tasking the creation of the summit as its first activity, where hundreds of participants signed on as stakeholders.

Q. What needs to occur for the MEC and the governor to be successful in this endeavor?

A. MEC has agreed to provide the management and organizational assistance in helping launch the Institute, which will eventually spin off as a completely separate organization. It will become the driving force for continuing to pull stakeholders together in furthering the goals of the study. Over the years, MEC will continue to play a role in helping promote the efforts of this organization to a broader audience, but the main policy work will be focused upon by those leaders from health care, business, government and economic development who will become a part of the Institute.

Q. What role do you see for Lee County and North Mississippi Medical Center in this effort?

A. Because of the well-earned and prominent national reputation of NMMC, Tupelo is already a center of excellence. Once again this community stands as a model of leadership for others. Plus, it has a head start and base that can be built upon to catapult Tupelo and Lee County to an even higher level in community and economic development.

The concepts engaged in the research are not just about health care jobs – but jobs in related service industries and in manufacturing and distribution related to health care. Another vibrant component is community development – housing and neighborhood growth as well as retail development.