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100 Lafayette St
Baton Rouge, LA, 70801
United States


An initiative of the Center for Planning Excellence, the CONNECT Coalition advocates for expanded mobility choices throughout the New Orleans to Baton Rouge Super Region and improve access to affordable homes, job centers and equitable economic opportunity.

2013 Policy Forum

The 2013 CONNECT Policy Forum brought together CEOs and leaders of the major medical institutions to explore how transportation and medical job centers affect each other. 

The 2013 Medical District Policy Forum focused on the transportation and economic linkages and long-term opportunities presented by the build-out of the large medical job centers in both metro areas.  The forum explored opportunities for greater connectivity to each distinct campus, along with the super-regional connectivity that is paramount for accessibility of the regional consumer and employee base.

This Forum provided CONNECT Steering Committee members, planning practitioners, grassroots advocates and non-profit partners with an unprecedented platform to engage with these panelists, which included:

  • John J. Finan, Jr.  President & CEO, FMOL Health Systems
  • Teri Fontenot  President & CEO, Woman’s Hospital
  • Gena Doucet  Director of Human Resources Management, Pennington Biomedical Center
  • Liz Failla  Replacement Medical Center Project Engineer/Coordinator, U.S. Veterans Medical Center
  • Paul Douglas  Vice President of Human Services, Baton Rouge General Medical Center
  • Dr. Ben Sachs  Senior Vice President and Dean, Tulane University School of Medicine
  • Warner L. Thomas  President and Chief Executive Officer, Ochsner Health System
  • Nadiyah Coleman  Director of Workforce Development, City of New Orleans
  • Dr. Jimmy M. Cairo  Dean of the School of Allied Health Professions, LSU Health Sciences Center, New Orleans
  • Allison Plyer Director, Greater New Orleans Community Data Center
  • Jim McNamara  President and CEO, BioDistrict New Orleans
  • Rod Miller  President and CEO, New Orleans Business Alliance
  • Ellen M. Lee  Senior Vice President of Programs, Greater New Orleans Foundation
  • Chris Ronayne  President, University Circle, Inc. (Keynote Speaker)
  • John Spain  Executive Vice President, Baton Rouge Area Foundation (Panelist and Moderator)
  • Donna D. Fraiche  Baker Donelson, LLP  (Moderator)

Key Takeaways
CONNECT recognized that this opportunity to connect these medical institutions to a quality transit network and ensure that public infrastructure investments connect workers at all income levels to access and jobs is now. The following themes and best practices emerged throughout the course of the Forum’s dialogue:

  • Medical centers are the economic drivers of cities today and should be treated accordingly.
    Though plants and industry still employ large numbers of residents in the super region, the metro centers of Baton Rouge and New Orleans exhibit employment patterns similar to Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and countless other large to mid-sized cities across the U.S. where medical institutions are the major employers.  As such, these facilities act as economic drivers, offering a variety of jobs at a multitude of skill and wage levels.  Rarely, however, are hospitals and medical research centers viewed as the job centers and wealth builders that they are by city and state policy makers.  As tax breaks and benefits are increasingly offered to large industrial manufacturers or related facilities throughout Louisiana, many of the medical institutions are seeing their budgets threatened and downsized.  These financial pressures don’t end at the institution, but affect the ancillary services and businesses as well, and several CEO’s warned audience members that they will be compelled to reduce the rates of contracted services, such as retail, landscape companies, laundry services and other service providers, as a result of the new budget constraints.  There will be an economic ripple effect from their budget cuts.
  • Partnerships between institutions to advance mutually beneficial policies are crucial.
    As funding for hospitals and medical research is reduced and compromised, many of these institutions have already established relationships with one another to manage specific avenues of care by creating partnerships with the state to oversee services.  While many of these institutions still compete with one another in the industry sector, they share many of the same needs and face many of the same barriers in the public policy realm.  Creating a common agenda and advancing it with one collective voice would give these providers great leverage and advance their individual aims tremendously.
  • Access is essential for patients and employees.
    With partnerships already underway between nearly all of the entities and institutions listed above, ensuring that patients, employees and students have access to these institutions is essential if these medical facilities are to reach their full potential in terms of economic impact and quality care.  To that end, greater involvement by these institutions in the decision-making of their local Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO’s), the state Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), Louisiana Economic Development (LED), city planning commissions and transit authorities, is needed if their needs are going to be uplifted and recognized.

Best Practices
Keynote speaker and President of University Circle, Inc. (UCI), Chris Ronayne, offered valuable insights and best practices from his work overseeing partnerships between universities, museums, hospitals and neighborhoods in Cleveland, Ohio.  As the umbrella organization overseeing a wide range of initiatives and collaborations since 1970, UCI has been a pioneer in the “anchor district” movement in the US.  While his full presentation can be accessed below, Chris also imparted several core best practices for New Orleans and Baton Rouge to consider as we advance our own “anchor districts”:

  • Address the surrounding neighborhoods.
    Ensure there is a wide range of quality housing options so people can live where they work and support area businesses around the clock. Many medical institutions are engaged directly in delivering these housing options through a community development corporations.
  • Coordinate your plans.
    Overlay plans for your medical districts with the MPO plans or city plans.  Everyone should be working from the same playbook.
  • Provide a multitude of services that benefit the institutions.
    From a police force, to transit systems, parks and parking, UCI provides a net of services for the institutions located within its boundaries.  Additionally, UCI seeds and fosters workforce development programs that provide local job training and services the institutions will needs, such as landscaping, solar panel installation and maintenance, laundry services, etc.