Analyst gives detailed breakdown of potential med center jobs

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by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist ERIN COKER

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on August 23, 2012 at 5:44 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 10:06 AM

AUSTIN -- Like a tricky surgery, asking for any tax increase is no easy task.

For an extra $100 a year on typical $200,000 home, State Senator Kirk Watson says a new medical school and teaching hospital will bring 15,000 jobs and $2 billion to the Austin economy. On Thursday, Watson set out to prove it with help from HealthyATX.org.

Jon Hockenyos is founder and president of TXP, an economic analysis and consulting firm, and was commissioned to run the numbers on the potential economic impact of the project. Hockenyos says putting together the estimate was a relatively straightforward process and provided a detailed breakdown of what Austin may expect.

"This is probably a bigger deal for Austin than Toyota coming to San Antonio was," Hockenyos told KVUE. He anticipates the project will create 6,900 direct jobs and $1 billion of direct annual activity.

"When you're bringing this kind of new activity into the community, it creates ripple effects," said Hockenyos, explaining that money channeled back into the economy through spending combines with other factors to raise the total impact figure to about 15,400 permanent jobs and $2 billion in economic activity.

Broken down, about 5,800 of those jobs will be in educational services and more than 4,000 in professional services. Hundreds more will come from finance, retail, construction and information fields. Hockenyos says the annual figures are estimates based on the project upon completion, which could take up to 15 years.

"It isn't something that's obviously going to happen next year," said Hockenyos. "It's a target for us to shoot at, essentially."

Though most comments from viewers have been supportive of the project, some have expressed skepticism whether in Austin, a city that has already seen taxes and fees increased, another increase will make life tangibly better for those struggling to get by.

"We don't have enough jobs presently for those that have a desire to work, so this initiative is great news," said Ashton Cumberbatch with the Capital City African-American Chamber of Commerce. "We have a strong need for jobs at all skill levels in our community."

Cumberbatch points out more than half of the new jobs won't require a four-year degree, which means those without an advanced education can still benefit through direct and indirect employment opportunities.

"This gives the Capital City Chamber of Commerce an opportunity to one, provide increased employment options for African-Americans already living here in the Central Texas area, as well as to provide increased opportunities to recruit and retain African-American businesses and African-American employees," said Cumberbatch.

"People want to be educated on it, but people are craving the results," Watson told KVUE. "There's a great benefit, and what a wonderful opportunity for us to do something that benefits our community this big."

With the tax increase through Central Health on the November ballot, Austin residents will have to decide if the project is what the doctor ordered.

To view TXP's full economic impact report, click here.

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