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Old Posted Jan 3, 2010, 9:27 PM
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MEMPHIS | Development News

Medical corridor development projects air of viability in Memphis community
Memphis Business Journal - by Michael Sheffield

The recession may have crippled most new development across Memphis, but a drive through the city’s medical corridor tells a different story. There is currently $1.5 billion worth of development under way in the medical corridor ranging from a parking garage at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center to the $450 million UT/Baptist Research Park that will house the Memphis Bioworks Foundation’s offices. Also under construction is Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center’s 650,000-square-foot hospital that includes a 12-story tower and a new emergency room. That project is budgeted around $327 million. Other projects in the area include the $8.5 million Harrah’s Hope Lodge, which will provide cancer patients and their families with a short-term stay facility. Le Bonheur is also building FedEx House, a short-term stay facility for its patients and their families, budgeted at around $8.5 million. The 30 known projects in the medical corridor are all in different stages of development, but what those projects show to Memphians and people visiting Memphis is a commitment to the growth of the second largest industry in the city, says Leigh Anne Downes, director of life science business development for the Greater Memphis Chamber. “Anytime a company comes to town and sees cranes in the air, they know the area is viable,” Downes says. “New development not only says the organization is investing in the community, but the community is investing in the organization.”

Beth Flanagan, director of Memphis Medical Center, says the city’s reputation precedes it in national circles, but the development going on in the medical corridor also serves as a conversation starter and an excitement generator at the same time. She says the challenges will be to create the work force to staff the hospitals and research center that are being developed. Memphis Bioworks Foundation, which also runs the Memphis Academy of Science Education and Education, is working to grow that talent from the ground up. “They can start with the charter school and go up to graduate degrees to create that work force,” Flanagan says. “Then you have organizations like Innova (Memphis, Inc.) to help with the patents and marketing plans. All of those pieces are in place.”

Le Bonheur’s expansion — which is on track to be completed by spring 2010 — will enhance the infrastructure of the area, says Cato Johnson, the hospital’s senior vice president of corporate relations. The bigger developments not only help attract other development and business to the area, but also enhance the quality of care for the existing population, Johnson says. “Those are major additions to the Memphis landscape as it relates to health care for this community,” Johnson says. “We also shouldn’t forget that Memphis itself will be a healthier community because of it. When we’re done, we’ll honestly be able to say the city has some of the best health care available.” When the UT/Baptist Research Park is completed, possibly by 2015, it will represent the latest transformation that has taken place over the last 60 years in the medical community in Memphis, says Bill Tuttle, vice president of planning for Baptist Memorial Healthcare Corp. Baptist donated its former Downtown hospital for the project, which Tuttle says represented an $80 million gift. Baptist also donated the land where the University of Tennessee is building its new pharmacy school. Tuttle, who has “been running around the medical center all my life,” says the development is definitely a great thing for the city, but what goes on in those buildings is more important than the mere presence of them. Tuttle says with the right staff in place when development is completed, no one can fathom how far the city can go. “You can’t put a limit on research talent and brain power,” Tuttle says. “When you look at Bioworks and the biomedical industry, it allows us to integrate well with other entities and parlay some of our existing strengths beyond just medical and science.”

One of those industries is FedEx Corp., which Downes says helps the existing companies meet federal medical shipping regulations. Companies that ship devices, vaccines or body tissue often have a federally mandated 72-hour window to get products to clients. Having FedEx in the city has made all of that possible. “If you have a product, it either came from Memphis or was shipped through Memphis in some capacity,” Downes says. More importantly, she says, is the fact that it will create high-skilled and high-paying jobs, keeping the talent the city is currently growing and attracting new people. “Biotech isn’t replacing what Memphis is known for, but it is enhancing the work force and opportunities for work in Memphis,” Downes says. “You can’t help but be excited about that.”
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