A Publication of WTVP

We have dealt with immense struggles during this economic crisis, and yet we have refused to ignore that this region has many bright spots. One such bright spot is the healthcare industry.

An Expanding Industry
During the 1980s’ economic recession, we learned a valuable lesson on the importance of not putting all of our eggs into one basket. We realized the importance of diversification, and this region worked diligently to diversify our economy and to grow different industries. Healthcare has grown tremendously and is now the second largest industry in the Peoria Metro, and represents 17 percent of our local workforce. (The Illinois Department of Employment Security defines this industry as Education and Health Services.) Healthcare is also the fastest growing industry in our local economy. By 2016, it is projected that there will be an additional 9,000 jobs in this industry compared to 2006, which will then make up 25 percent of the local economy. We have seen many industries struggle during this recent economic downturn, but the healthcare industry has managed to remain steady, and in turn, has helped to stabilize other industries.

The healthcare field has a multiplier of approximately 1.5. This means that for every 100 jobs created in the healthcare industry, 50 additional indirect and induced jobs are created within the local economy to support these additional people. As we see one industry grow, it helps to grow other industries in our economy as well.

When driving through this region, one can’t help but notice the growth in healthcare. Hospitals are expanding, and medical complexes are being built throughout the region. These projects not only create jobs in the healthcare industry, but they create and help retain construction, engineering and architectural jobs too. The growth in healthcare has helped to stabilize other industries and kept many people employed through this recession.

Great Things to Come
With the current uncertainty in healthcare reform, it is hard to paint an exact picture of the future healthcare industry. One project that will change the landscape of our local healthcare industry for certain is the cancer research center scheduled to break ground in the spring of 2010. This project will enhance the cutting-edge research performed by Dr. Jasti Rao and the Department of Cancer Biology and Pharmacology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine.

The approximately 20,000-square-foot research facility will be constructed on the College of Medicine’s downtown Peoria campus. The additional laboratory space will allow continued expansion of cancer research efforts, and the facility will help the College recruit staff and grow the current program, which is a significant benefit to the region. There is currently a regional shortage of specialty physicians, and the construction of the cancer research center will help to recruit top-notch physicians and surgeons to the region.

As our population ages, the demands on healthcare are changing and increasing. The projected growth in the healthcare industry is a necessity to support this aging population. We will see changes in the healthcare delivery system in order to accommodate the needs of, specifically, the baby-boomer generation. Some of these changes are already being seen. In August of 2009, the Greater Peoria Specialty Hospital opened. This is a 50-bed long-term acute care hospital offering specialized inpatient programs including an eight-bed Intensive Care Unit.

We are also seeing the growth in decentralized and rural healthcare. We are seeing a large growth in senior living facilities popping up in rural communities. There is also an expansion of Urgent Care or Prompt Care facilities, where non-emergency conditions can be treated, spreading out into the rural areas. Research shows that the aging population prefers to remain living in their hometowns, many of which are rural locations.

Another trend we are seeing across the country is medical facilities within commercial pharmacies, such as Walgreens Take Care Clinics and CVS Minute Clinics. This business model utilizes nurse practitioners and provides quick access to healthcare for the majority of minor issues.
Another area of growth that we will see in the healthcare industry is the growth in medical technology. Innovative ideas are being cultivated throughout our region at places like Peoria NEXT and the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria. An example of this type of technology is a start-up company called Peoria Robotics, which has created a virtual tool that is utilized in training physicians with simulated treatment. The success of this project gives notoriety to this region because, while this innovation will be used worldwide, it was born in small-town America. This company and many others are helping central Illinois become a more desirable location for technology-based businesses.

The growth of the healthcare industry is important to the sustainability of our local economy. The Peoria Metro has great potential to become one of the country’s big players in the world of cancer research and advances in medical technology. We expect great things to come from our region. iBi