Coweta hopes to be premier health care destination

by Clay Neely

At Friday's meeting of the Coweta County Economic Prosperity Council, Paul Ellen and Mike Casey from Ellen Communications presented initial research and marketing recommendations in regards to Coweta's viability as a premier healthcare destination - not only for Metro Atlanta, but also for the Southeast.

Recent investments by Piedmont Healthcare, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Ansley Park Rehabilitation and HealthSouth have put the county in an enviable position, officials with Ellen Communications said.

The research group held individual meetings and received data from multiple sources throughout Coweta County from development officers to marketing and recruiting members from Piedmont Hospitals, the Newnan Centre and Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

During these meetings, the focus was on exploring the specific assets that could be leveraged to position Coweta as a leading health-care community.

According to the report, with the field of health care growing faster than others, it currently makes up roughly 12 percent of the workforce, with an average annual salary of $50,000.

Using Coweta's health-care potential as an economic driver would essentially keep healthcare money local, as the system primarily supports local residents. This means local medical expenditures stay local, thereby providing a multiplier effect in the local economy. High-quality health care helps retain and expand local business by bringing residents of other counties here seeking treatment.

Among the many strengths of Coweta County's healthcare services is variety in facilities and options compared to other locales. Also noted was the recent growth of economic investment in the county's health-care infrastructure, along with strong health-care leadership.

The low cost of living, fiscal stability, availability of land and a wide variety of residential and lifestyle options also weighed heavily in Coweta County's favor in the marketing plan.

Another major factor in the discussion was the quality of education available in Coweta. With a high quality of teaching and facilities, student performance on all levels of standardized testing and the expanding health care-focused college and technical programs.

Speaking to the education options, J.P. Waston from The Heritage School stressed the importance of 'choice' in terms of recruiting people to the region.

'One of the strengths of Coweta, I have found, is that when people are moving from places across the country, the asset of choice is critically important. We would like to be part of that conversation in terms of the support group for recruiting,' Watson said.

One particular note of interest was the fact that roughly 56 percent of Coweta workers are employed outside of the county and use a primary physician closer to their place of employment and, more importantly, Coweta faces a shortage of primary care physicians.

The strategy to raise awareness of the opportunities and options available for health care in the county was the biggest issue in the marketing report.

The researchers believe a consolidated effort among community leaders will bring media coverage from metro-Atlanta publications.

'Coweta is not a part of ARC (Atlanta Regional Commission) so we're rarely a part of the story,' according to Ellen.

In regards to an Atlanta Business Chronicle's recent article about construction of Health-South hospital, Casey says: 'The headline reads 'Healthsouth To Build First Metro Atlanta Hospital.' The coverage is that when its convenient, our assets are lumped in with Metro Atlanta while Newnan barely gets a passing mention.'

'It's because we don't have a concerted effort to leverage all our assets. Simply put, this is an Atlanta story and not a Coweta story. It has the content but not the position we would like,' he said.

The report findings suggested the county use the strategy of 'Sell the region, then sell Coweta,' meaning that Coweta should not be defined by the county line but show contrast with surrounding areas where Coweta has a better story in fiscal management, education and other aspects.

'Coweta County has a chance to make a statement that will differentiate itself from its competing counties and make an economic difference. For every new doctor that is coming in, you're looking at up to 2 million dollars in economic impact on the county. You're talking 15 to 20 jobs,' said Casey.

Excellent communication among the leaders of the business and education community along with the Chamber of Commerce is perceived to be the key in terms of expanding and showcasing the viability of Coweta County's potential as a premier health-care destination as well as choice of residence with an emphasis on reversing the trend of Coweta becoming a 'commuter' county.



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