Health care industry leads the path toward economic development in the region.

The new Polk County School Board Employee Health Clinic opened on Friday in Haines City. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

HAINES CITY – Economic development can come to a community in a variety of ways, but for Haines City and Poinciana, that path increasing appears to be through health care.
For Poinciana, the ongoing construction on the Poinciana Medical Center will mean 200 permanent jobs when it opens next summer and, through the Medical Arts Complex on the same property, the possibility of more economic development through the physicians offices opening there.
“The most exciting thing that’s happened in Poinciana in a long time is the hospital,” said Keith Laytham, the president of Poinciana Residents for Smart Change, a civic group working to improve the community.
Joanna Conley, the chief operating officer of the Poinciana Medical Center, said she expects this facility to have a very positive impact on the community.
“I’m looking forward to joining the Poinciana community as we’re building the hospital,” she said.
In Haines City, there are also steps being taken to create more jobs through health care – something the Haines City/Northeast Polk County Chamber of Commerce celebrated on Friday at a ribbon cutting for a new health care office that opened in the Publix shopping plaza on U.S. 17/92 in the city’s downtown.

“This is really cool,” said Sherri Nickell, the superintendent of Polk County Schools. “Are you impressed with this facility?”
Polk County’s school superintendent was at the opening of a health care office for a reason: it was the School Department that was responsible for establishing the new facility. The official name of the office is the Polk County School Board Employee Health Clinic, and it opened on Friday to serve the people who work for the county’s leading public education agency.
“Certainly, this is an exciting day for all of us,” Nickell said, adding that the School Department’s workers deserve an easily accessible clinic they can visit when their health becomes a concern. That’s why the School Department invested in this project, Nickell said.
“They have thought for a long time: what can we do to support those employees,” she said, adding that the clinic was a collaboration between the Polk Education Council and the employee’s union, AFSCME, the American Federal of State, County and Municipal Employees.
“This has been a dream come true for all of us,” Nickell said. “A couple of years ago, we never imagined we’d be here.”
But it also represents an opportunity to bring more economic development to downtown Haines City, said School Committee member Lori Cunningham.
“This is such an awesome, awesome day for the Haines City community,” she said, noting that more public agencies are opening offices like this one as a way to expand health care access for their employees.
“I am so pleased we were able to open the first one here in Haines City,” she said, adding that through this new office, “We look forward to hopefully bringing more businesses here to the Haines City community.”
Haines City is already home to the Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center and a growing number of local physician’s offices in medical plazas along U.S. 27. The new Polk County School Board Employee Health Clinic adds to that mix, Cunningham noted, creating a growing health and medical industry throughout Northeast Polk County.
Polk County School Board member Hazel Sellers agreed, saying “I’m also very pleased it’s opened here in Haines City, and I know we’ll be working with a lot of other local (health care) providers here.”
The office was designed and is being operated by HealthStat, based in Charlotte, N.C., and a leading provider of on-site primary care.
“This is a big company with a lot of experience,” Nickell said.
She added that it’s also the hope of the Polk County School Department that the employees who take advantage of the clinic learn how to keep themselves healthy and fit, reducing the department’s overall health care expenses.
“We want to inspire our employees to take care of themselves,” Nickell said.

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