OUR OPINION: Health development zones hold prosperity potential

Gov. Phil Bryant added more details to his initiative called Health Care Zone Master Plans at a statewide health care summit in Jackson on Thursday.

The program, which is anchored in Mississippi’s growing $11.9 billion health care economy, is designed to bring health-related business and manufacturing development in a geographic area encompassing a five-mile radius around a certified facility in a county which has a certificate of need for at least 375 acute care hospital beds or which writes a master health care development plan.

Bryant announced 12 zones in his speech for the 700 people at the health care summit.

The plan would provide incentives in the zones for businesses “engaged in the research, development, manufacturing or processing of pharmaceuticals, biologics, biotechnology, medical supplies and medical equipment; diagnostic imaging; and other shared services …”

Eligible businesses would have to invest at least $10 million and create 25 permanent, full-time jobs to gain incentives:

• Accelerated state income tax depreciation deduction.

• Sales tax exemptions on equipment and materials from the date of certification until three months after start up.

• Property tax Fee in Lieu for 10 years at county’s discretion.

• Ad Valorem tax exemption for 10 years.

• Advantage Jobs, a program rebating a percentage of payroll to companies creating jobs meeting or exceeding the average state wage or average county wage, whichever is lower.

• Jobs tax credit for some businesses to reduce income tax liability.

• Infrastructure assistance provided by MDA for qualified companies.

Bryant certified 12 Mississippi cities as Health Care Zone Master Plan Communities:

• Clarke County: Quitman

• Clay County: West Point

• Copiah County: Hazlehurst

• Hancock County: Bay St. Louis-Waveland

• Humphreys County: Belzoni

• Madison County: Canton

• Marshall County: Holly Springs

• Montgomery County: Winona

• Noxubee County: Macon

• Panola County: Batesville

• Scott County: Morton

• Yazoo County: Yazoo City

West Point, for example, has produced a comprehensive plan of its community assets and its projections for health care needs and potential. The other 11 zones have developed similar documents.

The unfolding progress of the initial 12 zones should be closely monitored. If the plans work as designed additional prosperity will result. Health care salaries in the state are 40 percent higher than the average wage of Mississippians.