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Magee-based Pioneer Health Services still breaking ground

Once again, Pioneer Health Services (PHS) is living up to its name. A ground-breaking company focused on the rural healthcare needs, the company officially kicked off the construction of its sprawling, new headquarters September 24 with a groundbreaking ceremony.

Not only will the new facility allow PHS to house all of its corporate team at one locale in Magee, the three-story building will serve as an “anchor” for a new business park serving the entire community.

“I love Simpson County, and I love Magee,” said founder and CEO Joseph McNulty III of PHS, which offers services to and owns and manages rural critical access hospitals (CAHs). “This new building provides us with room to house the entire Pioneer family currently working in Magee, and it gives us enough space to continue growing in the future. We have been blessed to experience such widespread demand for our services, but in order to meet that demand, we had to quickly expand into several buildings throughout Magee. Now, I’m looking forward to having the entire family under one roof.”

Finding space

Unlike many groundbreaking ceremonies, PHS, which was founded in 1996, showed up with more than just some ceremonial shovels. Earth-moving equipment served as a back drop, and demonstrated that the homegrown company is looking to get its new facility built and in operation.

While PHS is planning on moving rapidly forward on construction, the project has been years in the making and has seen its share of snags. The company found an ideal piece of land on U.S. 49, but nearly the whole site was wetlands. Sensing that approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would be a long time coming — if at all — and fighting the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act deadline, PHS began looking elsewhere.

Fortunately, a colleague of McNulty’s owned a 90-plus-acre site near the intersection of U.S. 49 and Mississippi 28. The two men mulled over the site’s potential, and eventually struck on the idea of the site as not only the new home of PHS, but also a new business park. Gaining the support of local elected officials and community leaders, as well as funding from the state in the form of a Community Development Block Grant, the project got the go-ahead.

The new building will encompass 30,000 square feet of state-of-the-art office space on a 15-acre site in the business park. The new headquarters will be able to accommodate some 200 workers, and will add efficiency as PHS’ staff is currently spread across multiple facilities in Magee.

The staff will have enjoy more than just new workspace. The facility has been designed with the workers’ health and happiness in mind. It will provide a fully-equipped fitness center, high-tech training center and indoor and outdoor dining areas.

Kim McNulty, who spearheaded the design of the new building, said, “Our mission was to plan the most comfortable work environment possible, and the architects and construction company have been instrumental in obtaining our goal.”

The architect is Landry & Lewis Architects, P.A., of Hattiesburg, and the contractor is Ridgeland-based Benson Construction. Construction is expected to take 10 months.

Blazing a trail

The old adage of “can’t take the country out of the boy” certainly holds true in Joseph McNulty’s case. Born and raised in rural Franklin County, he earned a degree in psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi before moving to the “big city” of Magee in 1975.

McNulty began his career as a respiratory therapist for the local hospital before founding his first company — Medicomp Inc., a physical and respiratory therapy provider — in 1983.

As lawmakers began changing Medicare and its reimbursement rules, McNulty began to see a niche. Rural hospitals were feeling the pinch, and lacked the capital to compete.

“I believed that if rural hospitals were able to get the technology they needed, people would stay home to get treatment,” he said. “It turned out I was right.”

In 1989, McNulty acquired his first healthcare facility, S.E. Lackey Memorial Hospital in Forest, which would become the first hospital in the state to be designated a CAH in 2000. In 2001, PHS added Pioneer Community Hospital of Aberdeen, which also attained CAH designation.

PHS also manages CAHs. These include Covington County Hospital in Collins and PHS’ newest addition, Newton Regional Hospital, which joined the PHS family just this month.

PHS has found equal success as a service provider to CAHs across the country. The company offers operations/management (training/development and marketing), revenue systems, “financial experts” and service line addition services. It counts clients across the nation, from Hawaii to Florida.

McNulty envisions more growth. He anticipates adding six to eight PHS-managed hospitals over the next five years, and a 5% to 6% annual growth in services.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at wally.northway@msbusiness.com.

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