Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

April 3, 2013

Dental school project to bring jobs, funds to Tazewell County

TAZEWELL, Va. — Millions of dollars and dozens of jobs are expected to be created through a new dental school project made possible through the partnership of Tazewell County and Bluefield College.

Dr. David Olive, president of Bluefield College, presented a recently completed economic development study regarding the Bluefield School of Dentistry at the Tazewell County Board of Supervisor’s meeting Tuesday.

“We wanted to share with the council and make a formal public document that the community is aware of a recent study prepared for the proposed new dental school in Tazewell County and Bluefield, Va.,” Olive said.  “This report has assessed the likely workforce and economic contribution that a proposed private, non-profit dental school in Tazewell County would make to the southwestern counties.”

Olive said the report found the project will not only address critical shortages of dental health professionals in the region but also support a high growth industry and provide signification economic contribution to 19 counties in Southwest Virginia.

 The study found a significant lack of dental health care providers in Southwestern Virginia in addition to high rates of dental issues among children in the region.

As far as economic impact, Olive said the study found health care professions in the region grew by 11.7 percent between 2006 and 2011 while regional employment overall declined by 4.6 percent during the same period.

Olive said the dental school is expected to create a total employment of 136 jobs in Tazewell County alone during its first four years with an anticipated tax revenue to the county of $1.5 million and expected total economic output of $10.4 million. In the first four years, the dental school is expected to create a total of 116 jobs throughout the region and $8.1 million in total economic activity.

“This projection does not take into account the funds the county will receive from the lease of the facility,” Olive said.

When the school has been operational for seven years, Olive said the dental school is projected to have created a total of 245 jobs with $2.6 million in total tax revenue for Tazewell County and an estimated $18 million in total economic output. After seven years, the school is expected to create a total of 239 jobs in the region, an estimated $2.5 million in total tax revenue and $17.4 million in total economic activity to the region at large.

County Administrator Jim Spencer said this is actually the second economic feasibility study done on the project.

“The first study done in July 2012 at which time this was a hypothetical project,” Spencer said. “The 19 counties he is talking about is the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission region. We already have a request before them for some educational funding. This has been submitted to Tobacco Commission and Southwest Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority. What factored into our decision to move forward to this was the return on investment that the county will receive.”

Olive said confidentiality was important to undertaking the study.

“The confidentiality of our project, our work on doing research, have been due to concerns raised and word on the street there were other counties in Virginia and other colleges in Tennessee and Kentucky that were looking at a similar project,” Olive said. “We did not involve local or regional dental experts but instead went out the region and to the western part of the country to access these dental experts to help the development with this.”

Northwestern District Supervisor Seth White said the dental school model is proven to be successful.

“You don’t have to look very far to see this works,” White said. “You can drive to Grundy and Oakwood and see the economic impact of this model. We are all very excited about it and this will be a great economic benefit to our county. There are some obstacles and some tough things we are going to have to work through, but we are excited to see this in operation.”

Southern District Supervisor Mike Hymes said the project has great job growth potential for the county.

“These are jobs you can’t ship somewhere else,” Hymes said. “Faculty and staff will live here. Students will live here and rent apartments. We did do a great deal of study before we announced this. I am very excited about this project.”

— Contact Kate Coil at kcoil@bdtonline.com

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