Osteopathic program boosting local economy

(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A program at Arkansas State University is having a huge impact on the Jonesboro's economy.

The New York Institute of Technology's College of Osteopathic Medicine is in its second year at A State.

Numbers are showing that since that time, Jonesboro's economy is trending up.

Dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine, Dr. Shane Speights, said they did a study two years ago before the college was created.

"Of the College of Osteopathic Medicine in northeast Arkansas, before we ever started with the renovations of Wilson Hall, we did a feasibility study to say what the impact was going to be. We brought in a third-party consulting group who did a complete analysis of what that would do to the population, economics and how would the impact of northeast Arkansas be effected by this new medical school, Dr. Speights said"

Dr. Speights said the study is showing big numbers.

"During the first two years of our medical school...The economic impact is to be 70 million dollars and we're in our second year right now. $70 million impact to northeast Arkansas by the end of this second year of our medical school existence, which is obviously exciting for this area, Speights said.

Mark Young with the Jonesboro Chamber of Commerce said Jonesboro has seen a positive effect since the college started at A-State.

"If you think about the number of students that are here in our community, if you think about the faculty and staff that are here to support them, and all that goes along with operating a medical school, it's phenomenal. And we're already seeing the results of that and we'll continue to see positive results in the future," Young said.

There's been an increase in employment as well.

"Currently we have 56 employees actually within our college," Dr. Speights said. "That will expand to about 87 employees by 2020. Now, that obviously doesn't include the 120 students per year that we bring in. And many of those come in with families, spouses and so, then those individuals will get jobs in the area. So, while their loved one is in school here they're contributing to the economy by getting jobs and grocery shopping or buying gas and those sorts of things. So, that's just been a great positive experience not only for us but I think for the community as well."

"These jobs are wonderful for our community," Young said. "They're good high paying jobs and really increase the economic capacity of our community. And in addition to that if you think about it, as we continue to move forward and those medical students start graduating, obviously they're going to be an economic engine for this area as well."

With more money also comes an increase for the city in taxes.

"In general, throughout the project, with the renovations that occurred with the hiring of new employees we expect an impact of 317 jobs in the area. There was an additional impact of about $11.2 million in tax revenue that will be generated for northeast Arkansas by the presence of this medical school here in Jonesboro," Dr. Speights said.

"We're hearing from businesses across the community, and how appreciative they are that that investment was made and that the school is here. And again, having tremendous results. And also anticipating what those results will be in the future," Young said.

Dr. Speights said while they're thrilled about the economic boost, they're objective is to help improve the medical care available in rural areas.

"As we increase the number of doctors in the area, you'll decrease things like wait times in ER's. Wait times in Urgent Care. So, now patients can get care quicker by a physician they can see because we increase the number of physicians that are available for these patients to see. That also goes into account when you talk about physicians that aren't currently in some of these rural areas. So, now we can get doctors out in these needed areas and patients all throughout the region can get the care they need and deserve," Dr. Speights said.

There are 240 students in the program right now. Anywhere between 50% to 60% of those students are from out of state.

"For us, it's important that we're training medical students here," Dr. Speights said. "Our outcome is to produce the physician of tomorrow. But we see that as only one clog in the wheel, so to speak. We see a bigger calling for this college in terms of what it can do to positively impact the community. And we don't take that lightly. We recognize that's a mission and a charge to us to help do things better. Whether it be on the educational side or obviously on the healthcare side. Things we can do to raise everybody around us is what we're wanting to do. Not only in northeast Arkansas but really throughout this entire region involving four or five states."

"It is an economic development driver," Young said. "It will continue to be for years and years to come. So, we're excited about that."

For more information about the NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine at A State, click here.

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