SEARHC injects millions into city

Study outlines nonprofit's economic impact on Southeast

Posted: Monday, January 13, 2003

The Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium contributed more than $44 million in payroll, goods and services to Southeast Alaska's economy in 2001, according to a study released by the McDowell Group today. The organization's economic impact in Juneau totaled more than $12 million.

SEARHC was founded in 1975 as a Native-run administrator of comprehensive health care for Alaska Natives in Southeast Alaska. It operates the Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka and is one of the oldest and largest Native-run health organizations in the nation. The Indian Health Service, a federal agency, is the main funding source for SEARHC.

"SEARHC makes an important, ongoing contribution to the regional economy," said McDowell Group partner Eric McDowell. The McDowell Group is a Juneau-based research and consulting company.

SEARHC's 2001 budget, nearly $60 million, more than doubled the agency's budget of a decade ago, the study said.

The $16 million difference between SEARHC's operating budget and its contribution to the economy of Southeast Alaska results from the agency's purchasing of some goods and services outside of the region, said Susan Bell, a senior manager with the McDowell Group.

In 2001, 568 businesses, organizations and government agencies in Southeast Alaska benefited from SEARHC expenditures on goods and services, the study found. As Southeast Alaska's largest private-sector employer, SEARHC employed a total of 935 full-time, part-time and temporary workers in 2001. The agency employed 135 people in Juneau, and paid its employees here an average monthly wage of $3,800, $1,000 more than the Juneau average, the study said.

"In addition to their No. 1 ranking for employment, SEARHC's average monthly wage is about 60 percent higher than the regional average," McDowell said. "The health-care industry provides valuable year-round jobs, helping to balance other seasonal employment sectors like tourism, fishing and construction."

In addition to the Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital, SEARHC operates outpatient clinics in several communities, including Sitka, Juneau, Haines, Klawock, Kake and Angoon. It also offers a broad range of community health programs in the region. The organization's executive offices are in Juneau.

Ken Brewer, president of SEARHC, was unavailable to comment on the study.

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