Economic development concept will boost medical, wellness industry

Chamber President Lori Syverson and Robb Gruman presented a proposal at the June 6 Edina City Council meeting that, if successfully implemented, would make Edina a medical wellness destination for future development.
Syverson and Gruman, on behalf of both the Edina Chamber of Commerce and Explore Edina, presented a proposed economic development strategy that would create a medical and wellness district in Edina to promote bioscience and health organizations to take advantage of what the city has to offer.
After leading several vision sessions and online surveys, Gruman said that one topic kept rising to the top of the list.
“It was enhancing our medical community,” Gruman said. “And not by a little bit – by a lot. The resounding word that we got … was, ‘Absolutely, for sure.’”
The first focus of Explore Edina, created three years ago, was to reemphasize the retail and hotel business climate in Edina.
As part of the chamber’s strategic planning, interviews with chamber members, business owners and community members noted that the organization should try to emphasize the area’s medical commerce, which already has a firm standing in the community.
After evaluating feedback from approximately 300 people, it was discovered that 73 percent ranked the medical area as a primary sector for expansion.
Instead of simply giving money to the medical providers, a newly created committee sought to find a holistic approach to attracting businesses from this sector.
“We don’t want employees driving into Edina and then leaving at night,” Syverson said. “We want to live in apartments, buy a home here … it is really about the community.”
Due to the already strong medical base in Edina, including Fairview Southdale and Twin Cities Orthopedics, the committee found that the program would be more than worth the initial seed investment.
“If we implement this project, conservatively we estimate to double the [medical] revenue with the realistic expectation of tripling that in five to eight years,” Syverson said.
Syverson also shared a list of recommendations that included forming a medical wellness work group, developing a plan to attract more medical and bioscience entities to the district and developing centers of excellence aimed at treating specific diseases.
The bulk of the steps would take place during the next one to three years.
The proposal also noted the emphasis on wellness in the concept to avoid future residents or visitors of thinking of Edina as analogous to sickness, especially considering the city’s push for walkability, sustainability and curbing tobacco use amongst young people.
The request to the city council was for support and authorizing seed money for the program. They estimated $205,000 would be needed during the next 30 months to build the program.
While council members noted that they couldn’t be of any help this year due to the 2017 budget already being set, the support was certainly available.
“I’m excited about this initiative,” Councilmember Mike Fischer said. “It makes a lot of sense.”
Fischer recommended that the chamber and Explore Edina tie their initiative together with the Comprehensive Planning Process, a 10-year plan for the city that is due in 2018.
“While it is an economic development process, it is also a comprehensive vision for our community,” Fischer said.
The council also voted unanimously to assign City Manager Scott Neal to be the city representative for the initiative’s working group.