Colleges and universities, in general, are great economic engines for the cities and communities they are in.
Just ask people in places like Lorman or Cleveland or Columbus what life would be like without Alcorn State, Delta State and Mississippi University for Women (a.k.a. Reneau University).
Combine the economic development of a college setting with medical training for a state with a shortage of doctors and University of Mississippi Medical Center is nearly a perfect vehicle for Mississippi to recharge its economy.
Already, UMMC is the second largest employer (nearly 9,000 employees) in the state, behind Northrup Grumman.
However, when approached with economic impact numbers recently, many in the Mississippi Legislature were not aware of what UMMC meant to the business of Mississippi.
According to numbers provided by UMMC, it has an annual economic impact of $2.1 billion on the state with more than 17,000 jobs generated. It also pays more than $216 million in taxes to the state every year.
There are detractors, and there are those who would play down the impact UMMC has on economic development, and there are those who would argue UMMC creates a competitive imbalance with private hospitals throughout the state.
Neither of those opinions hold a lot of water.
Healthcare is big business in Mississippi and across the United States.
Some numbers show that 17 percent of the GDP is healthcare.
In Mississippi, as we know, the health of our citizens is rated as the worst in the country. We lead the nation in obesity. Mississippi also ranks first, uh last, in the nation for high blood pressure, diabetes and adult inactivity.
The Delta and Southwest Mississippi are Ground Zero for those problems, which is also Ground Zero for a shortage of doctors, which, not so amazingly, Mississippi leads the nation in.
UMMC could be the answer on multiple levels. The medical school has a plan for putting more doctors on the ground in rural areas.
That helps the economy, including employment, income, retail sales, and sales tax collection.
In many Mississippi Delta counties already, the hospital is the No. 1 employer, and that’s with a shortage of doctors.
The bottom line is more doctors means more money, more jobs and a better economic outlook, as well as a better health care outlook for Mississippi.
In the end, that means there is less money spent on the health-related illnesses we have in Mississippi.
If UMMC can do all it is doing now, just think what it can do if the legislature, actually were to view it as the economic engine that it is.
It boggles the mind.
Contact MBJ editor Ross Reily at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (601) 364-1018.