$1.4 Billion Annual Economic Impact in the Pine Belt

June 30, 2017

Written by Lici Beveridge, Hattiesburg American

HATTIESBURG (June. 29, 2017)—Three of the Pine Belt’s top health care providers have a significant impact on the area’s  economy, according to a study recently completed by the University of Southern Mississippi.

The companies contributed about $1.4 billion to the region’s economy in 2016.

The region includes 19 counties and about 570,000 people, with Hattiesburg and Forrest and Lamar counties at the center, said Shannon Campbell, director of the Trent Lott National Center for Excellence in Economic Development and Entrepreneurship  at the University of Southern Mississippi and lead researcher on the project.

She said the direct impact from 2016 is around $909.5 million with payroll, benefits and other expenses. The indirect effect is around $188.4 million. And finally, the induced effect — employee spending — amounts to about $303.1 million.

“When you combine those three factors together, the overall picture that they contribute to the region’s economy is $1.4 billion in 2016 alone,” she said. “So that is a major employer sector when you combine the three.”

Forrest Health, Hattiesburg Clinic and Southern Bone and Joint combined had more than 1.5 million patient visits.

That economic impact also supports more than 10,000 jobs, with 6,338 people directly employed with Forrest Health, Hattiesburg Clinic and Southern Bone and Joint. Around 1,775 indirect and 2,567 induced jobs stem from their economic contributions, Campbell said.

“It’s important to know these three entities represent the largest employment base in the region with some of the highest wages in the region, and affect a number of other businesses that interact with us on a daily basis,” said Evan Dillard, Forrest Health’s president and chief executive officer.

The information in the study also will help with physician recruitment, said Tommy Thornton, Hattiesburg Clinic’s executive director.

“When we can show them a report like this, it illustrates the strength and size of the health care system in Hattiesburg,” he said. “It gets their attention.”

In addition, construction impact, which was factored separately because it is considered temporary, taken from a four-year average amounted to $36.2 million annually, supporting around 262 construction-related jobs.

The three companies also contributed more than $187.5 million in taxes — $129.9 million federal, $49 million state and $8.6 million local.

The study also helps the health care providers lobby for funds for new projects at the state and federal levels.

“We’re showing them we put the dollars to good use in Hattiesburg, in quality of life, jobs and economic development,” Thornton said. “It helps make the case for them to spend money to help us bolster our health care resources in the community.”

Some of the money earned by the health care providers is turned back into capital investments for new equipment, technological improvements and innovations in health care to the tune of $28.8 million in 2016.

“That helps keep their health care services on the leading edge of technology,” Campbell said. “This is a very important part of the story. They are letting their patients know they are getting the best of the best in technology.”

The three companies also invested nearly $1.5 million in sponsorships, employee contributions and fundraisers for community engagement and outreach. They were directly involved in 97 community events and sponsored activities.

“They’re a very active part of the community,” Campbell said.

Forrest Health, Hattiesburg Clinic and Southern Bone and Joint Specialists asked the university to conduct the study to learn more about what the entities have to offer.

“This is a way to let our region know what kind of impact we have aside from just a health care standpoint,” Dillard said.