Gilbert is nearing completion of the first phase of a study into whether health care could be a feasible niche market, and experts say so far it looks promising. Town spokesman Greg Svelund said the health care industry is one in which the town would “probably have the most success.”
Town officials this month got their first look at a draft of the first phase of a Morrison Institute study into whether health care could be the answer to Gilbert’s need to attract jobs and an industry.
The idea is to attract not just hospitals and doctors, but also manufacturers and research.
“It’s definitely a viable industry for the town,” said Dan Henderson, Gilbert’s business development manager.
“We’re looking at health care in Gilbert and across the metropolitan area in order to be able to say what portion of health care makes sense overall for the Gilbert area,” he said.
Morrison Institute representatives will discuss results of the first phase of the study at a Dec. 12 meeting with the Economic Development Advisory Board.
Gilbert has the option of asking the institute to complete two additional phases studying the impacts of attracting health care jobs to town.
Research so far shows that between 2001 and 2004, Gilbert’s employment increased 27.9 percent, higher than the region as a whole, said Nancy Welch, associate director of the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University.
In 2005, she said, employment in health care accounted for 6.3 percent of Gilbert’s total jobs, according to initial report findings.
By the end of 2007, the three new hospitals that have opened in the past two years are anticipated to have added about 1,760 employees to that total, according to the Arizona Department of Commerce.
Adding more medical careers to Gilbert will mean more high-paying jobs in Gilbert, which officials have been seeking. ASU economists calculated in a January 2007 report that average hospital employee salaries in Maricopa County are $56,100, compared with the average of all industries of $49,051.
Hospitals account for 2.3 percent of the county’s employment, according to the Arizona Healthcare and Hospital Association.