HARLINGEN, Texas – The healthcare industry in the Rio Grande Valley contributes $13.7 billion to the local economy. It is accountable for 43 percent of the new jobs over the last ten years.
This information was provided on a webinar hosted by the Rio Grande Valley Partnership that focused on economic development in Harlingen.
“As the new year kicked in we initialized an economic impact study on the overall impact of the healthcare industry in our region,” explained RGV Partnership CEO Sergio Contreras.
“We found that the regional impact of healthcare is $13.7 billion. That is significant. And, 43 percent of the new jobs over the last ten years have been in healthcare specifically.”
Contreras said working with stakeholders across the Valley, RGVP looking to launch an entity called BioMed RGV, which would try to influence state policy, and bring more health research dollars and medical supply companies to the region.
The RGVP report is titled: “Economic Impact Study of the RGV Healthcare & Bioscience Industry. It was funded in part by regional hospitals and Workforce Solutions and conducted by UT-Rio Grande Valley’s Data and Information Systems Center.
The purpose of the study was to quantify and demonstrate the economic importance of the healthcare and bioscience industry in the Valley. A secondary objective was to collect wage and salary data on select high growth occupations in the industry, and identify career opportunities.
The study found that $3.3 billion is paid in annual wages and salaries to those working in the healthcare arena. It found most jobs in the industry pay wages and salaries higher than the region’s average. The study also found that $1.2 billion of goods and services are purchased by the industry within the Valley, thus supporting local businesses.
The study found three out of ten employees in the Valley work in the healthcare and bioscience industry. Healthcare and bioscience employs 116,563 workers, with 82,602 in health services and 33,961 in related industries.
The study found that the number of local jobs supported by the RGV healthcare and bioscience industry is 163,530. Of these, 119,055 are in health services, and 44,475 are in related industries. Over the past decade, 31,581 new healthcare and bioscience jobs were added.
The study also found that since 2015, the UTRGV School of Medicine has made a local investment of $659.5 million and created 1,000 new jobs.
Healthcare is important to the economy of Harlingen. In a video accompanying the RGVP webinar, Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell listed some of the key healthcare institutions the city has.
“Harlingen is an important healthcare hub in South Texas with Valley Baptist Medical Center, the largest hospital in Cameron County, along with Harlingen Medical Center, Rio Grande State Center and Palms Behavioral Health.”
Boswell said Harlingen is also home to major components of UTRGV School of Medicine and UT Health. It is also headquarters for the VA’s Valley Coastal Bend Health Care Administration, which has an ambulatory surgical center, and an outpatient clinic in the city.
Boswell said Harlingen will also soon be home to the UTRGV Institute for Neuroscience.
Beverly Ticer Loftus
During the webinar, Contreras asked Beverly Ticer Loftus, commercial development manager for Harlingen Economic Development Corporation, to explain how important the healthcare industry is to her city.
Ticer Loftus started by announcing that the UTRGV Institute for Neuroscience is under construction within Harlingen’s medical district. UTRGV hopes the institute will be the catalyst for multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary excellence in research, education, and clinical care and community partnership to advance brain health. “We are excited to have that,” Ticer Loftus said.
In a Harlingen EDC video shown during the webinar, Ticer Loftus said the UTRGV Institute for Neuroscience is set to be completed in 2021.
“This facility will be the first of its kind int he Rio Grande Valley and is going to be a game changer for medical research efforts in neurology, brain health, psychiatry, Alzheimer’s and a host of other important health issues,” Ticer Loftus said in the video.
“In the Rio Grande Valley healthcare has a $13.7 economic impact. And the healthcare industry has created 47 percent of new jobs in the last decade. This industry continues to grow. In Harlingen you can find quality, nationally ranked and recognized healthcare facilities.”
In Harlingen, the healthcare and social assistance industry provides 41 percent of the jobs, Ticer Loftus explained. “It is a large part of our workforce and the bio- and life-sciences industry is very important to Harlingen,” she said.
Concluding her remarks on healthcare, Ticer Loftus said one of the goals of Harlingen EDC is to recruit companies in the industry and to bring in “those pharmaceutical manufacturing companies, companies that bring in those large employment opportunities for the community here.”
She said Harlingen EDC continues to recruit specialty clinics.
“UTRGV is a big part of the Harlingen community. They continue to bring in their specialty clinics as well. We have had physicians reach out to us to talk about their opportunities to bring in additional services to the Harlingen community. We are excited about what is going to happen here in Harlingen.”
Ticer Loftus also spoke about education in the Harlingen EDC video.
“In Harlingen, education matters. We understand the importance of continuing education and making education accessible to our students. Our schools have partnered with local universities and community colleges to insure students are both college and career ready,” she said.
As an example, Ticer Loftus cited the partnership between UTRGV, Harlingen CISD, and the City of Harlingen.
“That partnership has led the way to the construction of the 64,000 square foot state-of-the-art UTRGV Early College High School, which will be the new campus for the Harlingen Early College High School. Through the early college program, students are given the opportunity to earn college credits towards degrees in computer science, engineering, or education by the time they graduate high school, giving them a direct path towards a bachelor’s degree.”
Ticer Loftus said the UTRGV HCISD campus is scheduled to open later this year.
Editor’s Note: The above news story is the second in a three-part series on a webinar the Rio Grande Valley Partnership hosted in conjunction with Harlingen Economic Development Corporation. Click here to read Part One, which focused on new development at Valle Vista Mall. Part Three will be posted in our next edition.