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Good-paying jobs, millions in investments

Tyler Paper

If the Tyler economy figuratively had a heart, it would be located on a short stretch of Beckham Avenue where the flagship hospitals of two major health systems stand almost side by side.

UT Health East Texas and Christus Mother Frances Hospital are the two most visible signs of a growing medical sector that is powering the economy by providing good-paying jobs and millions in investments, economists say.

"The health care and social assistance industry is the most important driver of the East Texas economy, measured by employment," concluded a study of a 23-county area that includes Smith conducted by the Hibbs Institute for Business and Research.

 

MAJOR IMPACT

The health sector provides jobs for about 76,000 people and "its employees are highly paid," said the regional study released last year by the institute in the University of Texas at Tyler's Soules College of Business.

Between 2007 and 2017, slightly more than 1,000 new jobs were created each year by health care providers, show the institute's analysis of Bureau of Labor data.

The job gains are projected to continue.

"Over the next one year, the fastest growing occupation group in the East Texas area is expected to be health care support occupations with a 2.2 percent year-over-year rate of growth," the institute projected.

When the institute narrowed the focus to only Smith and surrounding counties, the health sector's impact was even greater.

Health care generated $3.56 billion in goods and services in 2016 (the most recent data available) to become the largest economic sector. It even outpaced manufacturing, $3.53 billion, and the sector that includes oil and gas production, $2.8 billion.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas also documented a strong medical sector when it analyzed the economy of an area made up of Smith, Gregg, Upshur and Rusk counties.

Health services accounted for 17.6 percent of all jobs in the four counties, compared with 11.6 percent of jobs in the state as a whole, the study found.

An Economic Overview released by Tyler Economic Development Corp. this year identified about 24,000 health related jobs in Tyler and projected, based on past gains, that nearly 500 more jobs will be added within a year.

MERGERS

Three Tyler health care providers were part of recent mergers.

In 2016, Tyler-based Trinity Mother Frances Hospitals and Clinics merged with Dallasbased Christus Health to become Christus Trinity Mother Frances Health System.

"This joining of two distinguished health systems will greatly strengthen both organizations, improving access to care for patients and expanding each organization's service offerings," said a news release that announced the merger. "Most importantly, it will increase the capacity and ability to meet the ever-growing health care needs of East Texans through increased resources and innovative services."

The strategic plan of Christus Trinity Mother Frances is to continue to expand, the announcement said.

Christus Trinity Mother Frances Health System includes the 402-bed Christus Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler and six other hospitals and 36 clinics.

A Catholic, faith-based, not-for-profit health system, Christus Health is made up of almost 350 services and facilities.

Last year, Ardent Health Services and the University of Texas System acquired East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System and branded the new health system UT Health East Texas.

Nashville-based Ardent assumed majority ownership of the 502-bed East Texas Medical Center Hospital in Tyler and its affiliated nine regional hospitals, 40 clinics and health services providers.

The UT System contributed the UT Health Northeast hospital and 12 physician clinic operations to the new system.

"The newly created health system will expand medical education, research and community health," said a news release from Ardent, which operates medical systems in six states.

Ardent and the University of Texas Health System will invest $150 million for improvements over five years, the announcement said.

In 2017, Baylor Scott & White, the state's largest not-for-profit hospital system, acquired majority stake in the physician-owned Texas Spine & Joint Hospital in Tyler. United Surgical Partners International took over management oversight as part of the deal.

"By integrating into the Baylor Scott & White Health system, a greater number of patients will be able to access expert, award-winning care," said the acquisition announcement.

The 20-bed specialty hospital became Baylor Scott & White Texas Spine & Joint Hospital. Affiliated with the hospital are urgent care centers in Tyler and Palestine, a radiology services center in Tyler and an orthopedic clinic in Longview.

 

Board members of Baylor Scott & White and Houston-based Memorial Hermann Health System last year signed a letter of intent to merge. The proposal has to be approved by regulatory agencies and could be finalized this year.

Once combined, the new entity would be the largest health system in Texas with facilities in 30 counties and about 73,000 employees.

Tom Mullins, president and CEO of Tyler Economic Development Corp., said the mergers have strengthened Tyler's position as the region's medical hub.

MEDICAL HUB

The medical sector includes more than just hospitals and clinics.

Missouri-based Centene Corp. employs more than 300 at its 50,000-square-foot claims processing center on Earl Campbell Parkway.

The company, which processes 3 million Medicare and Medicaid claims each year, spent $15 million to open a new center five years ago after receiving a tax abatement and money from the Texas Enterprise Fund.

Fresenius Medical Care also employs more than 300 at its $11 million, 80,000-square-foot center on Earl Campbell Parkway.

Fresenius is one of the largest providers of products and services for people undergoing dialysis.

Employees at the center provide administrative support to Fresenius' 2,300 dialysis clinics, four of which are in Tyler.

Both the University of Texas and Tyler Junior College have added programs and facilities to help meet the demand for health care workers.

In 2015, the University of Texas at Tyler opened the $26.5 million Ben and Maytee Fisch College of Pharmacy. The 60,000-square-foot building houses classrooms, laboratories and faculty offices.

Tyler Junior College is home of the $50 million, 150,000-square-foot Robert M. Rogers Nursing and Health Sciences Center, which opened in 2015.

The facility houses the college's associate dental hygiene and medical technologies programs as well as its Bachelor of Science in dental hygiene program. It also houses the training rooms for students seeking the college's new Bachelor of Applied Technology degree, which launched in January.