Vital Signs
When the Nashville Health Care Council released the results of its latest industry economic impact study, most local journalists — including this one — hurried back to their newsrooms to compile what were, essentially, different versions of the same story.
 
We wrote about the 60 percent climb in the industry’s economic impact on the region, the vast number of people the industry employs locally, and we touted Nashville’s healthcare machine as larger and more productive than those of its peer cities.
 
To our credit, a $30 billion annual economic impact is no small thing. Direct employment of more than 113,000 people and a total employment impact (including direct, indirect and induced jobs) of 211,000 are significant.
 
But perhaps more compelling than how big or how wealthy the local industry is today — or what it looked like in 2008, given that the data is two years old — is the national growth of the healthcare industry and its expansion prospects for the future. The report’s authors at Middle Tennessee State University’s Business and Economic Research Center tucked this information conspicuously into the second chapter of their nearly 100-page document.
 
Nationally, the industry’s employment grew more than 10 percent between 2004 and 2008, compared to total non-farm employment growth of about 4 percent. Despite the recent recession, Nashville’s healthcare sector managed 15 percent growth during that period. It had grown by a whopping 25 percent from 2000 to 2004.
 
Looking ahead, healthcare occupations are expected to add nearly 2.8 million new jobs nationally between 2008 and 2018, accounting for one in every six new jobs a decade from now. Although the study offers no comparable growth projections for the healthcare industry’s future in Nashville, it stands to reason that local healthcare companies will be among those contributing to that 2.8 million headcount.
 
After all, the 56 major healthcare companies based here account for 400,000 workers nationwide and some of the most innovative and entrepreneurial executives in the industry. If Nashville’s healthcare cluster continues to grow more quickly than the national rate through expansions and new businesses, it may secure a decent chunk of the $4.7 trillion in healthcare expenditures projected for 2019.
 
Imagine what that could mean for the NHCC’s economic impact report in 2020.