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Medical industry is S.A.'s top employer
December 1, 2010

By David Hendricks - San Antonio Express-News

San Antonio's health care and bioscience industry delivered a $24.5 billion economic impact last year, according to new, broader measurements used in a report released Tuesday by the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.

Click here for copy of latest economic impact report

The findings show the medical sector is the largest in the city in terms of employment and probably has become No. 1 in economic impact, with the finance industry likely now running a close second, said one of the report's authors, Trinity University economics Professor Richard Butler.

In 2009, the medical industry paid $6.5 billion in wages and salaries to 141,251 employees, accounting for 17.2 percent of the city's work force.

The sector added nearly 33,000 net jobs over the past decade, and more jobs are coming, the report adds. The net job gain over the past 10 years is roughly equal to eight Toyota assembly plants, each with their own suppliers, Butler said.

The updated health care sector report was released during a chamber luncheon attended by more than 200 people.

The study expands on one three years ago by adding the effects of the University of Texas Health Science Center, some elements of military medicine in the area, and the multiplier effects of goods and services that local medical businesses sell or deliver outside the region.

The more limited measurements used for the previous study still show a growing sector, with an economic impact of $18.9 million in 2009, a 9.1 percent increase from 2008 numbers and more than double the size of the industry 10 years ago.

"2008 and 2009 were not the best years for all industries," Butler noted.

People employed in the health care and bioscience industry earned on average $45,793 in 2009. The average is almost 16 percent above the 2009 average of $39,575 for all workers in San Antonio.

Annual incomes of workers in the health services sector, such as hospitals and doctor offices, averaged $45,485. The average salary for the related industries sector was $46,527.

Research is a growing part of the medical sector, with $393 million in external research grants awarded last year.

Butler stressed at the luncheon that the sector has an exciting future.

Maj. Gen. David Rubenstein, commanding general of the Army Medical Department Center and School at Fort Sam Houston, outlined for the audience the massive military medical campus that will materialize beginning next year at the post, thanks to consolidations ordered in a 2005 base realignment round.

The Defense Department is building 53 projects at 76 facilities, creating 6.5 million square feet of space costing $2.2 billion, Rubenstein said.

The report will help convince the outside medical world and investors that San Antonio is a good place to start a health care or bioscience company, said Gabi Niederauer, vice president of research and development at ENTrigue Surgical Inc. and president-elect of the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association.

The report "mirrors what we are seeing. San Antonio is starting to get that critical mass," Niederauer said after the luncheon. She cited the sector's widening diversity that is able to attract medical industry professionals to San Antonio because they can advance their careers in a choice of specialties.

Butler said that with InCube Labs of California arriving in San Antonio and making a commitment to launch at least five medical device companies, with Medtronic Inc. continuing to hire to meet its 1,400-employee goal and with the coming military medical campus at Fort Sam Houston, the report's 2009 numbers will become outdated soon.

He and fellow Trinity University Professor Mary Stefl periodically compile reports on the city's largest industries for the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.


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