Big employers

Health care and higher education continue to expand

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Print this page by Bryan Gentry

The Lynchburg region’s largest employment sectors, health care and higher education, continued to grow in 2014.

In January, the regional health-care system Centra Health announced that it would purchase Carilion Clinic’s stake in Bedford Memorial Hospital, which the two organizations had operated in partnership for 11 years. The deal, completed in July, allows Centra to develop its services there. “We wanted the Bedford community to have an opportunity to be part of a regional health system with the services and specialists that community needed,” Centra spokeswoman Diane Riley says in an email.

Centra plans to spend $1.5 million to $2 million per year to upgrade and develop the hospital in the next three to five years, Riley says.

In 2014, Centra continued to experience a decrease in inpatient care volume, but volume has shifted to the system’s outpatient care centers, she says.
Despite concerns about falling enrollment and the rising price of college nationwide, several of the Lynchburg region’s private colleges have shown strides of growth.

In 2014, Randolph College finished renovating an apartment complex across the street from its campus to provide a new housing option for its growing student population. In October, Lynchburg College opened a $12 million expansion of its student center.

The most significant growth, however, has been at Liberty University, the evangelical Christian college started by the late Jerry Falwell. By expanding its online programs and on-campus offerings, the university’s student body has grown from 64,000 in 2010 to more than 100,000 today, including nearly 14,000 who study on campus in Lynchburg.

In the past year, Liberty has opened a new, state-of-the-art library; a renovated student center; a high-rise dorm building; and a medical school, the Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine. The medical school began holding classes in August 2014 with 160 students and 62 employees. The university anticipates the college will reach an enrollment of 640 students and have 90 full time and 30 part-time employees by August 2017, according to Ronnie Martin, dean of the medical school.

As early as February, the medical school will open a health clinic in Lynchburg that will offer health services for rates that vary depending on the patients’ income.
The growth at Liberty has led to increased spending and financial impact in the Lynchburg area, according to a study that the university recently commissioned from Richmond-based Mangum Economic Consulting LLC. According to that study, Liberty stands as the region’s largest employer with 6,000 local employees. Together, the university and its students, visitors, employees, and tenants spent a combined $567.3 million in the region in the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

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