Nashville to compete for medical convention center — or is it just a cut-and-paste job?
NASHVILLE, Tennessee — A potential competitor to Cleveland’s medical mart says its version could be ready by next year, offer more convention and showroom space and operate in a city with a much larger medical industry.
Dallas-based Market Center Management Company says its “international medical trade center” in Nashville would start with a 250,000 square feet but eventually grow to 1.5 million square feet in three years.
The company will pick a site in the next three weeks, Chief Executive Bill Winsor said. Its final decision whether to go ahead, to which there’s no timetable, will depend on reports from Market Center’s health-care and leasing teams, Winsor said.
The announcement — though far from a definitive commitment — is significant. Neither Market Center nor Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., which will own and operate the Cleveland facility, believe the country can handle more than one medical mart concept. The idea of a destination medical equipment showroom is too new for the industry, they said.
Both companies also say it’s critical to be the first facility to open. MMPI has said at best they could open a portion of the mart in May 2010, though it could be six months later than that. Winsor said he would be ready to start in July 2010 using his facility and over time leveraging space from an old convention center in Nashville, as well as a new 1.2 million-square-foot facility that will be built downtown.
“Being first is a key element to victory,” Winsor said.
Both companies offer essentially the same concept, but the buildings, resources and cities are notably different.
MMPI’s Cleveland medical mart and convention center would be more than 585,000 square feet of convention, showroom, exhibitor and meeting space. Greater Cleveland’s strength is its hospital industry — from Cleveland Clinic to Summa Health System to University Hospitals — as well as a large infusion of public cash. MMPI will get more than $900 million in local tax money, include interest, will be used to complete the project. County government officials last month finalized an operating agreement and earlier this month purchased the bulk of the site’s land from the City of Cleveland.
The Market Center project, on the other hand, would build its way up to 1.5 million over the course of three years. It would be privately financed and likely cost $350 million to $375 million, Winsor said. Like in MMPI in Cleveland, Market Center has the backing of the city’s medical business and research communities. The Nashville medical industry includes privately owned Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) and more than 300 medical businesses — 15 of which are publicly traded companies.
The concept ” is best suited to Nashville given the expansive health care institutions and the collaborative spirit between industry, research, and the city,â€ Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, Vanderbilt University’s vice chancellor for health affairs, stated in a press release.
MMPI Senior Vice President Mark Falanga said Nashville has the wrong medical industry.
“The customers are in Cleveland,” Falanga said. ” The manufacturers want to hang around customers — not their peers. Manufacturers are going to Cleveland to sell into Cleveland Clinic, to sell to University Hospitals and sell to MetroHealth Medical Center. They’re not cycling through Nashville to see their buddies.”
Falanga at times spoke of Market Center like he was on one side of the Browns-Steelers football rivalry. Falanga dismissed the entire project — and particularly its start date — as improbable since it has no financing. He also dismissed the company as ill equipped to compete against MMPI.
“What they’ve proposed to do — they’ve cut and pasted the content from our Web site,” Falanga said. “There’s not any original thinking in there in terms of what they contemplate.
“They’ve tried to replicate a whole range of our projects,” Falanga said, ticking off concepts from menswear and bridal shows to furniture and technology events in which the two companies went head to head. Market Center failed every time, Falanga said.
“This is a threat we donâ€™t take all that seriously,” he added.
Winsor countered that the occupancy rates at his facilities are universally superior to MMPI’s. He’s had discussions on this current concept for months and said he had talk about a medical mart concept with HCA as early as the 1980s.
“For him to claim weâ€™ve tried to cut and paste and do a head fake, thatâ€™s preposterous,” Winsor said. “Look at their rental rates and occupancy — the truth will be there.”