Friday, May 29, 2009

The Race is on to Build a Medical Mart in Nashville

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2009 at 5:59 AM

click to enlarge Nashville's advantage: Less corruption, land and labor costs
  • Nashville's advantage: Less corruption, land and labor costs
According to Tradeshow Week, a Dallas company is well on its way to creating the nation's premier medical mart, or what's essentially a mall for medical products and services. Market Center Management is currently eyeing three downtown Nashville buildings in hopes of having the 1.5 million square foot facility operative within a year.

Any new business that size would be a huge bonanza for our fair city. The problem is that both Cleveland and New York are already years into planning their own facilities. And as Market Center CEO Bill Winsor says, "There is only room for one of these medical marts, and it's going to be ours." Which presents a small situation for Nashville's bid.

First is that Nashville, despite its booming medical industry, is arguably the lesser market for customers. New York is, well, New York, and Cleveland hosts the Cleveland Clinic, generally considered among the nation's top three hospitals (after the Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins).

Moreover, Cleveland is throwing a billion dollars in welfare to a private company to create its mart. Nashville's would be self-financed by Market Center. Or so it claims. If this turns out to be true, Cleveland would have the monster advantage of government subsidies, meaning it could dramatically undercut Nashville's leases...

There's also the issue of whether a medical mart would actually hurt convention business. Winsor believes Nashville's proposed Music City convention center would work in tandem to bring buyers here. But according to Heywood Sanders, the nation's preeminent scholar on the convention industry, a mart would likely hinder conventions. His reasoning:

Trade associations make a big chunk of their annual budgets by hosting conventions. Much of that money comes from selling booths to suppliers who want to reach their members. So if, say, gynecologists were to hold a meeting in Nashville, their trade association would lose a boatload of money in lost booth sales, since members could merely walk across the street to the medical mart. As the Good Lord says, never underestimate the power of self-preservation.
The wild card in all this is Nashville's business friendly environment. We're way too broke to offer the welfare Cleveland is throwing around. But it's far easier and cheaper to get something done here.

New York is planning a 60-story mart, but it must deal with the labor, land, and construction hassles that make anything in New York a Biblical quest.

And Cleveland, arguably the most incompetent city in the country (with apologies to Detroit), has taken four years just to reach a decision. A recent FBI corruption raid on county government was so massive it had to call in extra agents from Pittsburgh. And since public theft is so widespread there, any large construction project will naturally go through the traditional cycle of rigged bids, kickbacks, cost overruns, grand jury indictments, and the inevitable FBI raids. Meaning Cleveland's mart may not be online until 2024.

All of which may leave Nashville sitting pretty by default. Either way, gentlemen, start your engines.

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