HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Hancock County is looking to the health care industry for future economic development.
The county was recognized by the governor as one of 12 health care zones designed to attract business and create new jobs. Community leaders are now discussing how to accomplish that goal.
"We're looking at about $130 million of economic impact," Sean Garreston told a roomful of community leaders, "Again, this is real stuff. We know this is possible for you guys."
The professionals who wrote the master plan for Hancock County's health care zone met with community leaders to talk about implementing it. Part of that plan calls for developing more health related business around the campus of Hancock Medical Center. Projections say the county could create nearly a thousand health care jobs by 2020.
"We have location, which is very good from a distribution standpoint. We have acreage, which is very good for physical ability to locate somebody. And we have existing structures already in place and infrastructure to handle this business," said Clay Wagner with the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce.
And while the focus is on Hancock County, the planners who wrote the blueprint encourage regional cooperation.
"Everybody has to kind of look at the potential and value of working together. Maybe developing specific areas of niche expertise that complement one another but end up regionally creating better synergy," said planner Stephen Coulston.
One potential area of expansion is assisted living facilities.
"Assisted care is probably a very good growth market here, given just the climate, your health care assets, your proximity to a couple different airports," Garreston told the group.
With the plan in place the challenge now is to implement the ideas.
"The job creation potential of this plan is what is going to bring in everyone, everyone to the table," said Bay St. Louis Mayor Les Fillingame.
County and city governments will do their part by dealing with issues like zoning and tax increment financing districts to help attract the health care industry.
The current health care zone in Hancock County is a five-mile radius around the medical center. Planners say it's critical to amend the legislation to include Port Bienville Industrial Park, which could be a key component for attracting new health care business.