Business

Federal Way sees potential as a regional health care hub

The city council is considering building Federal Way from the ground up as a leader in the health care industry.

The council heard a presentation May 5 from the Seattle-based enterpriseSeattle. The economic development company proposes to capture innovative ideas in the health care field, assist in the patenting and licensing of new health care products, and help locate businesses centered on the inventions in Federal Way.

Self-creating an industry cluster would generate jobs and tax revenues as well as give the city an identity. Though the council showed an interest in the project, it wants more information on the risks and benefits involved before spending $75,000 for a feasibility study — the first step in The Federal Way Center for Healthcare Innovation process.

The end result could be similar to that achieved by the city of Bothell, which in conjunction with Seattle is the Northwest's epicenter for medical device equipment and the life sciences community, said Bruce Jackson, enterpriseSeattle business manager.

"Federal Way is where Bothell was 30 years ago," he said.

City council member Dini Duclos said she was happy to see Federal Way recognizing the potential to position itself in a niche market.

"We really have an opportunity to have a niche here," she said. "This is the time we need to start moving."

Creating a market

Forming an industry cluster would call for producing a business model reliant on partnerships and creativity. health care agencies would become partners with the city, then subscribe to a system that would allow personnel at the agency to explore their creative ideas, Jackson said.

health care and medical breakthroughs come at the point of care, where doctors and others in the field are directly interacting with patients and imagining ways to better provide their services, he said. The personnel would have somewhere to go and someone to help them grow their ideas into successful products and businesses, he said.

"The doctors that are going to invent things are right here," Jackson said. "Taking advantage of inventions is not a new idea."

Starting at home

The first step in the process is a feasibility study, which would determine potential partners willing to pay for subscriber access.

To do this, enterpriseSeattle proposes conducting a six-month study, consisting of an innovation survey of potential partners, such as St. Francis Hospital. A steering committee would be formed and city leaders would attend a health care summit to learn more about the industry. The city would be assessed to determine how many health care professionals and businesses currently reside here, and how successful growing the industry may be.

"Let's understand what's here before we talk about expanding it," Jackson said.

Success depends on changing Federal Way's psyche and gaining subscribers. The city must embrace the health care community. Businesses, such as hospitals, university transfer offices and health care associations, must be willing to pay for a model that would allow them to better explore health care inventions.

"It's got to grow from the inside out, not the outside in," Jackson said.

Once the Federal Way Center for Healthcare Innovation work caught on locally, subscribers outside the city would be sought, he said.

"It would not work if you think small and restrict your net casting simply to Federal Way," Jackson said.

Next steps

The idea is one that is extremely innovative, mayor Jack Dovey said.

It has no real track history in Washington state, Jackson said. Discussions about forming a partnership with St. Francis Hospital are needed before a decision on whether to proceed is made, the city council said. Council member Linda Kochmar and deputy mayor Eric Faison wanted more financial information and clues as to how high of a payoff the city could see on such an undertaking.

"It sounds like a great idea," Faison said. "We need to look at what's going to be the future driver of our economy."

If the model was a success, at some point, private investors would likely take over the city's role. In Bothell, the real estate market drove economic development in the life sciences sector, Jackson said.

Ultimately, the idea could cost upwards of $2.2 million over the next three years to establish, if the council chooses to do so. Some of that could come from investors.

The Federal Way Center for Healthcare Innovation process will come before the council again, possibly in a sub-committee meeting, before any voting takes place.

Learn more

To learn more about The Federal Way Center for Healthcare Innovation, review the May 7 city council agenda packet at www.cityoffederalway.com/weblink/docview.aspx?id=327067.

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