Bryant summit highlights health care zone benefits

Phil Bryant (AP)

Phil Bryant (AP)

By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – Spearheaded by Alliance Health System’s goal to build a new hospital in Holly Springs, a medical park was created in the Marshall County municipality in 2008.

With the community unable to offer incentives, developing that park has proven slow. But with Holly Springs being named a certified Health Care Zone Community by the Mississippi Development Authority, incentives will be available to help develop the medical park, Holly Springs Mayor Kelvin Buck said Thursday.

“I see an organization like Blue Cross Blue Shield taking advantage of the incentives to locate a regional office in Holly Springs to take advantage of the growth in the area,’” Buck said of the expanding Memphis suburbs.

Buck, who took office in early July after serving in the Legislature, spoke at Gov. Phil Bryant’s Health Care Economic Development Summit Thursday at the Jackson Convention Complex where discussions were held on how to spur the state’s economy through the health care industry.

“The thing we are going after is the industry that supports hospitals,” said Tray Hairston, a former adviser to Bryant who helped develop the Health Care Zone legislation and is now a Jackson attorney. Hairston said that could include industry that manufactures complex medical equipment or companies that make the white coats physicians wear.

Such industries will receive various state tax incentives for locating in health zones.

On Thursday, 12 of those certified health care zone communities were announced. Along with Holly Springs, West Point in Clay County received the designation. (For a full list, see the editorial on Page 7A.)

“Mississippi is unique in its approach to applying health care zones and clustering to economic development,” Bryant said in a statement.

The health care zone legislation was created after Bryant traveled to Houston, Texas, just after being elected governor to tour a massive health care zone there.

Under the legislation passed in 2012 and refined in 2013, communities with at least 375 acute care hospital beds, such as Tupelo with North Mississippi Medical Center, qualify automatically as a health care zone. But other smaller communities, such as Holly Springs and West Point, must go through a rigorous process and develop a plan that must be approved by the Mississippi Development Authority.

“These plans are valuable, proactive tools that will aid communities, MDA and local economic development practitioners as they work to attract the start-up or recruitment of a variety of private sector health-related industries,” Bryant said.

The governor and the Mississippi Economic Council, the state’s chamber of commerce, have been working together to develop plans to grow the state’s health care industry.

Bryant said he hopes other communities work to become health care industry zones.

bobby.harrison@journalinc.com