Mayor Dennis Phillips addresses a crowd during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Allied Health Building downtown. Photo by Erica Yoon.
KINGSPORT — The Allied Health Building downtown will become pivotal to the Model City’s work force development, economic development and downtown redevelopment, officials said at its groundbreaking Wednesday.
Northeast State Technical Community College will operate the facility, housing nursing and five other two-year health care degree programs as well as complementary nursing programs of King College.
Kingsport is funding the $4 million project, a two-story building of 42,000 square feet, and Wellmont Health System is providing scholarship money. The center is slated to open in late August of 2008, helping pump up the downtown economy.
Combined with the Regional Center for Applied Technology’s 850 students, the allied health project will bring another 400 for a total of 1,250, not counting the Higher Education Center set for a groundbreaking in the spring.
“I really think five or six years out, you’re going to look at what you have ... as one of the big events in the history of Kingsport,” Northeast State President Bill Locke told about 85 people huddled under a tent and umbrellas for the groundbreaking at the corner of Clinchfield and Clay streets.
As a steady drizzle of rain fell and earth moving by contractor J.A. Street and Associates halted for a few minutes, King College President Greg Jordan said the allied health operation will be key to economic and work force development.
King has more than 200 nursing students in a bachelor’s degree nursing program and a master’s degree nursing program, part on Main Street and part at Holston Valley Medical Center in conjunction with Wellmont.
Northeast State will offer two-year degrees in nursing, medical laboratory technology, cardiovascular technology, surgical technology, dental assistant and emergency medical technician/paramedic, Locke said, consolidating its offerings in health care.
Patrick Kane, vice president of marketing and communications at Wellmont, said hospitals and health care are becoming key components of economic development.
For instance, he cited American Hospital Association statistics indicating $2.30 in community impact for every $1 spent on health care, which would translate to about $1.83 billion based on Wellmont’s annual intake of $800 million.
“This impact of health care on the local economy is immense,” Kane said. “This program will help us grow our own nurses and health care professionals.”
Kingsport Mayor Dennis Phillips thanked the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, former Mayor Jeanette Blazier and others, including businesses that will have to move to make way for what is to become an “academic village” downtown.
“This had been something that was talked about long before I was mayor,” Phillips told the crowd of a focus on higher education downtown, including the Higher Education Center. In contrast, the Allied Health Building was an 11th-hour project that emerged about six months ago.
“Bill Locke was kind enough to come to us and say, ‘I can put that in Kingsport if you’ll provide the building,’” Phillips said.
Kingsport Times-News Publisher Keith Wilson, who helped spearhead the allied health project as well as the RCAT and Higher Education Center, said he believes in long-term, strategic planning, but fast-forwarding the allied health project was the right decision.
“There are also occasions when you have to take the initiative and go forward,” Wilson said. “Occasionally, you just have to seize the moment.”