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LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: Health Sciences Center a triumph of cooperation

It may be impossible to overstate the significance of the new Health Sciences Center, which officially opened last week in a ceremonial ribbon-cutting of the Pardee Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The celebration attracted a who’s who of local people plus a lineup that we don’t always see when Henderson County officialdom congregates: young people. Students from Blue Ridge Community College and Wingate University — many in scrubs — lined an upstairs rail overlooking the event.
Mayor Barbara Volk welcomed the large crowd to “to this beautiful facility in the city of Hendersonville” —emphasizing the fact that the building did indeed end up within the city limits.
When Wingate University began scouting for a larger space two years ago, Hendersonville officials scrambled to make sure that the clean-jobs creator did not leave town. That was one factor that led to the cooperative effort of the city, Henderson County, Wingate, BRCC and Pardee to build the 100,000-square-foot facility. As much as the brick, mortar and glass — as much, even as the sophisticated cancer-treating technology — town and gown were really celebrating that unprecedented partnership.
“It’s amazing when we pick up the paper today and see the divisiveness around the country and sometimes in our own community what can happen when you check your egos at the door,” Pardee CEO Jay Kirby said. “The fact that our county, the city, Wingate, Blue Ridge, Pardee all came together, put their egos at the door and did what was best for our community, for our patients and for our students and teachers (is significant) and what you are standing in today is a reflection of that — nothing more, nothing less.”
Wingate President Rhett Brown recalled a meeting early in the process when County Manager Steve Wyatt steered him outside to Hendersonville’s Main Street.
“Imagine, if you will,” Wyatt told Brown, “that a young person born in Henderson County could not leave Henderson County and become a pharmacist, physician assistant or nurse anesthetist in our county.”
“And it was at that point,” Brown said, “that I got the vision.”
The benefits of that vision are just starting to be felt.
It’s no accident that developers are sniffing around at property nearby. As we report elsewhere in this issue, a physician is looking to buy a county-owned piece of land and it’s clear that the entire 700 block across from the new facility is ripe for development.
The Health Sciences Center has classrooms and treatment suites but no dining hall or dorm rooms. A coffee shop, deli, shops and residential condos could be next on the horizon.
Within its walls, the Health Sciences Center will teach many hundreds of students and offer hope for cancer patients and families. Churning out bright young professionals in medicine and business is a great contribution. So, obviously, is saving lives and extending lives. The center helps beyond that, too. Just by being there the facility figures to be a catalyst for development and an engine for economic growth that generates a substantial return on investment for decades to come.