A Prescription for Success
As the health care industry continues to grow north of the lake, its success offers lessons that can be applied to overall development on the Northshore.
Ask anyone within the Greater New Orleans region to describe the identity of the Northshore and — depending on the person — you’ll likely be met with a myriad of responses. New Orleans natives often see the Northshore as the sparsely developed land between the city and Baton Rouge. In many circles, St. Tammany Parish isn’t even considered “local,” despite the relative short distance between it and New Orleans.
But regardless of opinion, most will recognize that the Northshore is growing, albeit with its own set of challenges. Issues like infrastructure, flooding and traffic oftentimes hinder development, but there is certainly success to be found. Over the last decade, for example, much of the Northshore’s growth, and therefore identity, has been tied to development in its health care sector.
“Many don’t realize that the Northshore has become a destination for health care,” said Hiral Patel, chief executive officer at Lakeview Regional Medical Center. “It isn’t always necessary anymore for patients to travel outside of the region for quality, high-end medical services.”
The Covington-based hospital has expanded its operations nine times over the last 10 years. In 2016, LRMC grew its emergency department by another 5,000 square feet, and subsequently became the first Level 2 trauma center of its kind in St. Tammany Parish.
This is just one example. We see even further development in the industry throughout the Northshore.
St. Tammany Parish Hospital has undergone major expansions on its campus about every 10 years, including its most recent four-story addition in 2020.
Recently, Ochsner opened its new Center for Child Development in a retail shopping center in Mandeville. This is the result of a growing trend we see in the adaptive reuse of former commercial space into clinics to bring medical services closer to the community.
And just last year, another major stakeholder – FMOL Health System – announced its expansion in St. Tammany Parish along the I-12 corridor.
Looking back, this sustained growth in health care may in fact offer insight into how the Northshore can overcome its broader set of development challenges. What smart growth principles, therefore, can we take away from health care’s success?
For LRMC, growth came with thinking beyond the building itself. “Infrastructure,” said Patel. “It isn’t just about building more beds or expanding the campus. Our facilities need to invest in the proper infrastructure in order to keep pace with the complexity of the services and programs we provide.”
Likewise, as the Northshore continues to grow, business owners and residents alike recognize that infrastructure is a challenge we face, not unlike many other communities. As population expands, communities throughout the Northshore must continually invest in the proper infrastructure to keep pace with increasing demand — not just in health care, but for schools and amenities.
Another tenet for growth is access to high-quality jobs. In terms of employment, healt care represents more than 20,000 jobs in our area, yet we still rely heavily on the Southshore to provide opportunities in other major sectors. Access to a variety of high-quality jobs will become increasingly more important as we consider further diversifying our development opportunities and attracting new business.
But perhaps the most important thing to consider when it comes to growth on the Northshore is our ability and desire to build consensus with community leaders. Once again, we can look to the Northshore’s major economic driver for key takeaways in this regard.
Leaders from our major healthcare providers and parish representatives recently formed a strategic partnership called “Northshore Healthscape: A Collaborative Enhancing the Pulse of our Regional Healthcare Economy.” Their priorities are familiar ones for any business owner: generate consensus and build capacity, talent and development for the industry within a three-year strategic initiative.
Should we, therefore, consider a similar public-private approach to future development on the Northshore and identify opportunities where private enterprise, community members and public officials can have open, honest and respectful communication? In doing so, new opportunities emerge, new perspectives are considered, even new funding sources identified.
Our health care sector has proven over time that you can achieve consensus from key stakeholders and community members through smart collaborative development. Simply put, the key to smart growth on the Northshore lies in our ability to bring the right people to the table to tackle these challenges head on.
John Donahue ispresident & CEO of DonahueFavret Contractors, a Mandeville-based general contractor serving the Gulf South. He serves on the board for GNO, Inc., LABI, and is the former chair of Associated Builders and Contractors, Bayou Chapter. He is the former chair and current board member for the Northshore Business Council.