The Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission has agreed to financial, land and in-kind contributions to the new King School of Medicine & Health Sciences Center, with total grant value reaching $25 million.
The grant is the largest in the commission’s history and will go toward initiating progress for construcion of the medical school.
Here’s the full news release from King College:
Keying on its vision to promote economic diversification and prosperity in a region long dependent on tobacco production, the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission gave medical education and health care a gigantic shot in the arm in Southwest and Southside Virginia on Wednesday.
At a news conference on the site of the new King School of Medicine & Health Sciences Center, Tobacco Commission Chairman Terry Kilgore and his team of 30 VTC members agreed to a combination of financial, land and in-kind contributions for the allopathic medical school that match the largest grant ever awarded by the commission in its 12-year history – a total of $25 million that initiates progress for the construction phase of the medical school.
“As a group committed to accelerating regional transformation so that all residents enjoy expansive opportunities for education, employment and cultural enrichment, the Tobacco Commission confirms the $25 million match to our original offer in October 2009 toward the King School of Medicine,” Kilgore said in addressing a crowd of more than 250 people from within a 150-mile radius of the Abingdon area, a region defined as the Southern Highlands region of Central Appalachia where the med school will have its greatest impact. “Jobs, education, a growing economy and improved health care will all stem from this visionary project. We’re excited to see its launch in the coming months.”
On Sept. 16, King College signed an Execution of Agreement with the Town of Abingdon and Washington County to locate the medical school in Abingdon on 36 acres at the Stone Mill Business and Technology Park at Exit 14 – land valued at $4 million. Abingdon Town Council also agreed to a financial commitment of $3.5 million to the project, while Washington County’s Board of Supervisors voted to give $7.5 million toward the school.
To make the VTC match, King College partnered with the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center, a high-tech educational facility located near Stone Mill Park that will house the first class of med school students in 2014. The value of the Higher Ed Center as a medical school facility, including classrooms and laboratories, is greater than $10 million, which is included as an in-kind contribution toward the medical school. The combined town, county and Higher Ed Center contributions bring the capital raised to more than $50 million.
“It’s difficult to put a price tag on what this new medical school will mean to the Southwest and Southside regions of Virginia,” said State Sen. William Wampler, Jr., a member of the Tobacco Commission. “This project could not have advanced without the public private partnerships that have been forged across Virginia in the areas of education, community, private sector, and local and state government.
“More than anything else, though, this effort is about the long-term healthcare benefits for the people of the dozens of medically underserved communities across the region,” Wampler added. “We’ve got significant health issues in rural Virginia that must be addressed as soon as possible. Ultimately, that’s the reason the Tobacco Commission made a strong financial commitment to this cause.”
King College also announced two weeks ago that it has secured the option on purchasing 15 additional acres of land from Highlands Union Bank located adjacent to Stone Mill Park to grow its med school campus.
King College President Dr. Gregory Jordan recognized dozens of community, health care, education, government and legislative supporters for their assistance in enabling the project to progress to this launch point. The supporters helped him unveil a commemorative cornerstone that symbolizes the project’s next step involving construction of the medical school.
“I am extremely appreciative of the Virginia Tobacco Commission for its belief in this vision two years ago,” Jordan said. “Their gift of $25 million was the incentive that drove us to today’s watershed announcement. And I also want to thank the tremendous team of supporters who have believed in this project through all the normal milestones associated with a project of this magnitude and who have worked incessantly to bring it to this celebratory announcement of partnerships and progress.
“The Town of Abingdon and Washington County, the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center, and Virginia Highlands Community College – all of these partners have created an expansive home for our medical school campus here at Exit 14 and, in the process, a transformational health care opportunity for our region the likes of which we have never experienced before.”
Local leaders from Abingdon and Washington County have trumpeted King College’s medical education initiative as vital to addressing the anticipated critical physician shortage of 6,500 doctors by 2020 in the Southern Highlands region, an area that includes Southwest Virginia, Northeast Tennessee, Eastern Kentucky, Western North Carolina and Southern West Virginia.
According to independent medical education consulting firm Tripp Umbach, the Southern Highlands region lags significantly behind the national average in access to health care, life expectancy, prevalence of diabetes and low birth weight. Tripp Umbach predicts that this region will continue to lose approximately 375 doctors per year due to the aging physician workforce.
The firm has projected that the total construction impact alone will be in the range of $210 million and support more than 1,500 jobs in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Jordan said Tripp Umbach is projecting that when the first class of 60 to 75 students enters medical school in Abingdon, the additional revenue generated from economic activity at the school will result in a business volume impact of more than $50 million for Virginia. By year seven, that number would jump to $70 million for the Commonwealth. Virginia will also benefit from about $3.5 million in government-generated revenue.
Tripp Umbach also projects that construction of the school will result in $27 million for Abingdon, with the creation of approximately 200 direct and indirect jobs for the town alone. The first class is projected to generate nearly $10 million in local revenue, and when that class graduates, the annual economic impact to Abingdon alone could be $15 million.
For Washington County, construction of the project could result in as much as $91 million in revenue, according to the Tripp Umbach feasibility study. By year four, as the first students enroll, additional revenue generated from economic activity at the medical school could result in a business volume impact estimated at $19 million for the county.
By year 10, Washington County could see the addition of 489 direct and indirect jobs created by the medical school, while Abingdon could benefit from 108 new jobs.
Studies show that potential annual economic impact for the region increases to as much as $1 billion once the school, an affiliated research campus and a medical corridor that is likely to develop around the medical school reach their full productivity by 2035. Other benefits include new neighborhoods, schools, retail, banking and commercial opportunities to support the anticipated increase in population.