News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 10, 2010

Rural health business incubator efforts for Vigo County get financial boost

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Efforts to create a business incubator and accelerator in Vigo County for rural health care and life science companies took a step forward Wednesday with a grant from Duke Energy, combined with funding from various organizations and the State of Indiana.

In addition, Duke Energy also provided a grant to reimburse the Vigo County Redevelopment Commission for a land survey to subdivide property that once housed Pfizer’s Exubera plant, south of Terre Haute. That land is being called the Vigo County Industrial Park II.

The grants totaled $30,000.

Duke Energy provided $10,000 to the Rural Health Innovation Collaborative (RHIC), formed in 2008 to address the shortage of health care providers in rural areas.

The $26,300 study, which started last week and is expected to be completed by the end of June, is also being funded with $13,150 from the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

The remaining $3,150 is funded through Union Hospital, the Terre Haute Economic Development Corp. and the Indiana State University Foundation. ISU’s Center for Business Support and Economic Innovation will act as lead agent for the study with center director Christopher Pfaff as its coordinator.

Pfaff said the feasibility study will look at four sections, the first being the number of potential business startups that could be tenants of an incubator/accelerator. “Then, look at best practices from other business incubators and accelerators. Then also look at potential sites, whether greenfield sites or exiting businesses for reuse,” Pfaff said.

“Then finally, the study will take a look at potential funding sources,” he said.

Pfaff said some former Pfizer workers who have formed a testing company could be an example of companies that a business accelerator could help, including potentially locating on former Pfizer property.

“One of our client companies is Midwest Compliance Laboratories, or MC Labs, which is a group of former Pfizer employees that came together to start their own testing laboratory,” Pfaff said, adding that the company has six full-time employees.

“I think we will look at both emerging companies and companies that are already started up, but really are at that crossroads where they need to make the next level expansion. I think in this market we will not just look at pure startups, but those emerging companies that have already organized like MC Labs…” Pfaff said.

Incubator can help rural physicians


Richard “Biff” Williams, dean of Indiana State University’s College of Nursing, Health and Human Services and chairman of the RHIC facilities committee, said “one of the purposes of RHIC is to increase the economy and bring in new businesses. By doing that, we want to create new businesses in rural health,” Williams said.

“Right now, there is an extreme shortage in physicians, nurses and health care professionals in rural communities,” he added.

“I think this incubator can address what new businesses are needed in the rural area that can provide better health care. Telemedicine is one thing we are looking at, and also looking at information technology,” Williams said.

“Everybody is going to electronic medical records, but if you look at these [rural family medical practices], they can’t afford that,” he said.

“It could also be training of staff, where they create a software so that nurses can train themselves. They will need to be trained if they are sending X-rays to, say, Union Hospital from Sullivan County. A family practice physician may not want to spring $100,000 on a staff member to use that technology, so maybe there is a business that provides that,” Williams said.

Duke Energy provided $20,000 to the Vigo County Redevelopment Commission, reimbursing the commission for a land survey.

Steve Witt, president of the Terre Haute Economic Development Corp., said the former PSI Energy, which later became part of Duke Energy, provided funding in 1988 for the first feasibility study for the current Vigo County Industrial Park.

The property survey to subdivide the former Pfizer property is the first step in developing a new industrial park Witt called the Vigo County Industrial Park II.

Witt said the Corradino Group, the county’s consulting engineer, has already done the survey and new plats were approved last month by the Vigo County Plan Commission. “The survey is the basis for everything we go forward with when we go to sell property and make infrastructure work,” Witt said.

Mike Heaton, regional economic development manager at Duke, called it “one of the premiere properties in the state of Indiana,” citing a recent site selection trip he made to Dallas, Texas. Heaton said one consultant already knew of the location “and was impressed with the building and the property associated with it.”

“We are interested in entrepreneurship for the state of Indiana and feel like new business startup is really the future. It is a long-term strategy in economic development,” Heaton said.

 “Healthy communities translate to a healthy utility company, so whenever there is viable business in Terre Haute or other communities in Indiana, it translates into a healthy utility company, so that is why we are interested in business startups in this region,” he said.

 Heaton added that in general, 85 percent of business startups remain within a community where they started.

Duke Energy’s Indiana operations provide about 6,800 megawatts of electrical capacity to about 780,000 customers, making it the state’s largest electricity supplier.

Duke Energy is one of the five largest electric power holding companies in the United States. Its regulated utility operations serve about 4 million customers in five states – North Carolina, South Carolina, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky – representing a population of about 11 million people.

Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.