HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A new state law could turn the area around William Carey University's Tradition campus into a hub for health care industries. It is expected to create thousands of new jobs and inject about $380 million into the local economy. The move could also mean more educational opportunities for students in the health field.
Picture this: A medical clinic, pharmaceutical companies, physical therapy centers, and research institutes surrounding a serene campus on Highway 67. That is the goal behind a new state law that creates a "Health Care Industry Zone" centered around William Carey University at Tradition.
"It's a great thing for Harrison County. It's a great thing for William Carey. It's going to produce a lot of jobs and give a lot of businesses great incentives to locate here," said Senator Sean Tindell of Gulfport.
That incentive is to provide sales and property tax exemptions to healthcare businesses that locate within a five-mile radius of the campus. Those businesses must create at least 25 full time jobs and make an investment of $10 million.
"The next five to ten years, we have projected $380 million in investment and 2,200 jobs, and this will be spark that gets it going," said Tradition President Gerald Blessey. "It's a combination of education and economic development. When you cluster them together, then you can live and work in the same area and study in the same area. So it begins to stimulate more growth."
In order to meet the needs of those industries, William Carey plans to expand its nursing programs and offer additional courses, like Health Information Management and a PhD in Nursing Education.
"So this is absolutely nothing but a positive step forward for health care and for students in this region," said Janet Williams, Nursing School Dean.
While health care zones have set up around hospitals in Mississippi, this is the first time that such a zone is being created around a university.
"It's certainly exciting, because it brings this zone here to the coast. So it's going to stimulate jobs, it's going to bring health care industries right here, and it's going to be a great partnership between William Carey and these health care industries," said Scott Hummel, William Carey University Provost and Executive Vice President. "So we'll be able to provide students. We'll also listen to these industries coming here. We'll be able to provide new programs for them."
Blessey said his staff is aggressively recruiting health care industries and institutions and he said several businesses have already expressed an interest in locating in the zone.