By Ranada Robinson, Senior Research Associate.
I recently participated in an IEDC webinar entitled Partnering with Your Local Healthcare Industry to Drive Economic Impact. The two speakers, Steven Standley (University Hospitals, Cleveland, Ohio) and J. Eric Mathis (Williamson Redevelopment Authority, West Virginia), provided information on the innovative approaches their communities have been involved with spurring economic development from healthcare anchors. In many communities, hospitals are major economic drivers in terms of employment and investment, and it was interesting to hear how these communities are working as partners with their hospitals to create community-wide improvements.
Steven Standley briefly discussed Vision 2010. This $1.2 billion expansion effort by University Hospitals included a construction program which introduced a new project labor agreement with construction trades – a model for inclusion with goals for the percentage of contracts and employment relating to racial, gender, residency as well as apprenticeships for inner city vocational high school students on the projects – and a local vendor development strategy.
He then talked about the Greater University Circle Initiative. The leading anchor institutions in the community were rallied by the Cleveland Foundation to support this multi-faceted initiative. University Hospitals, Cleveland Clinic, Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center, Case Western Reserve University, and Cleveland Museum of Art together provided investments of over $3 billion. Here are examples of the projects this initiative has successfully implemented:
- Focus on Neighborhoods at Risk – The initiative has programs focused on revitalizing struggling neighborhoods, with an aim of retaining and attracting talent. Working with community development corporations, development projects for nine neighborhoods in the City of Cleveland were identified.
- Creation of Evergreen Cooperatives – This initiative works to provide living wage jobs in low-income neighborhoods in the area. Several workers even have criminal records that previously made it difficult for them to find quality jobs. There are three for-profit companies operated within the cooperative: Evergreen Cooperative Laundry, Evergreen Energy Solutions, and Green City Growers Cooperative. All three are sustainable businesses with green business practices.
- Creation of New Bridge Cleveland Center for Arts and Technology – This facility retrains area adults to become phlebotomists and pharmacy technicians and after graduation, they are hired at the University Hospitals or other area healthcare employers. The facility operates other programs as well, such as an after school arts program for high school students.
- The healthy communities component is centered around diabetes prevention and increasing access to walkable, bikeable trails. Through the Williamson Walkable Communities Program, community groups and businesses in the downtown area compete for the most miles walked in order to encourage healthy living.
- A closely related component is food systems, which encompasses increasing the number of farmers markets, organic farms, and farm to school connections. One key initiative to this component is the Regional Food Systems Project. Currently, there is a pilot organic farm located on a reclaimed mine site. In addition, community gardening is a priority – an example of community collaboration is the Williamson Community Garden, a partnership between CASE, Williamson Redevelopment Authority, Wildwood Garden Club, Americorps NCCC, and local volunteers, that includes a greenhouse and 24 individually raised beds.
- The sustainable tourism component links back to the bikeable community along with other outdoor recreation, such as hiking and all-terrain vehicles), a tourism corridor, and historical tours. The famed Hatfield and McCoy feud has been depicted in a film released on History Channel, and the Hatfield and McCoy Trails now have its first stacked loop mountain bike trails.
- The integrated education component focuses on high schools, community and technical colleges, and universities. CASE has partnered with global leader – Global Service Learning – to establish an integrated education program that links Wayne County with local educational centers. This component directly confronts generational poverty through basic skills training like balancing a checkbook and healthy eating.
- Sustainable building focuses on leadership in energy and environmental design, Living Building Challenge certification, deconstruction, and community revitalization. The Williamson Health and Wellness Clinic provides integrated, one-stop health services at low or no cost. Its facilities have undergone several energy efficiency upgrades, including the installation of the largest renewable energy system in the southern coalfields on its rooftop.
- The energy optimization component includes utility-scale, municipal, commercial, and residential energy. Williamson, WV has a local energy action plan, which aims to reduce energy expenses for the city’s five public buildings. One of the goals of West Virginia Sustainable Communities is to provide citizens with sustainability education opportunities.