Rethinking Healthcare

Why location still matters for healthcare firms and drug makers

Posting in Cities

Indianapolis and Nashville have become the hubs for life sciences and companies that create medical devices and patient-care systems, respectively. A look at what makes a spot hot.

Location, location… even in a time of mobile devices, cloud computing and working from home, there are benefits to knowing the right spot to set up shop.

Across the nation, new industry hubs draw entrepreneurs and investors, offering startup support and safety in this economy. The Wall Street Journal takes a look at 7 up-and-coming innovative centers. (We’ll be looking specifically at just 2 of them.)

First, geography of a hub:

  • Being there means getting access to a wider range of suppliers, customers, employees, and industry experts.
  • Industry peers often support each other as they get off the ground, sharing recommendations about staffers, potential sales leads and attractive office space, or giving each other guidance and industry insight.
  • As businesses cooperate, they challenge each other to innovate, coming up with new ideas that make them stand out from the crowd.
  • When businesses come together, they also catch the eye of big players with deep pockets.
  • Hubs also catch the eye of government. A concentration of small firms in the same field is more likely to be recognized on the municipal level, where funding programs and policies can be created to stimulate their growth.
  • And eventually, innovative centers grow solid partnerships between the public and private sectors, a growing work force to fuel the industry and long-term strategies for development.

Life Sciences in Indianapolis, Indiana:

The state has added 8,800 of these such jobs in recent years, and today some 825 medical-device companies, drug manufacturers, and research labs call Indiana home. These include big names like Eli Lilly and health-insurer WellPoint.

Now that they’ve led the transformation, large corporations are helping smaller companies get off the ground by spinning off new businesses (such as BioCritica) and backing independent startups. Eli Lilly, for instance, has contributed roughly $60 million to seed and venture funds that support entrepreneurs.

With new firms arriving to supply the large drug makers, startups are getting access to a range of services at competitive prices.

FierceBiotech calls this all the Lilly Effect.

Healthcare in Nashville, Tennessee:

There are more than 250 healthcare companies in the city. Employment in nursing, hospital and ambulatory services jumped 16% between 2004 and 2008, for example. And then there are the companies that create medical devices and electronic record systems.

According to Leon Dowling of IMI Health, which collects and organizes health records to give insight into the best patient-care practices: “Within 10 miles of my office, I can have more potential clients than any other city in America."

Last August, the city launched an entrepreneur center to spur innovation; two-thirds of the firms that sought mentoring and financing are related to healthcare. State programs have also helped propel the industry, with some $180 million in public funds available to burgeoning firms.

And here are the other 5 hubs: cybersecurity (San Antonio, Texas), nanotechnology (Albany, New York), information technology (Kansas City, Kansas and Missouri), outdoor sports gear (Odgen, Utah), and beer brewing (Asheville, North Carolina).

Read the full WSJ story here.

Image: industry hubs across the US via WSJ

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Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure