Simply put, Randy Vogenburg wants to get people talking.
“It’s amazing what can happen when you just talk to each other,” Vogenburg said.
That’s why he found it so odd that there continued to exist a stubborn silence between two major groups affecting South Carolina: the economic development crowd and the health care crowd.
“Everybody works in their own silo, and people don’t cross over between silos,” Vogenburg said. “You go to an economic-development conference, and it’s all business and investing people, nobody from health care. And then you have the health care conferences where there’s nobody from the economic development side.”
Vogenburg — who, among many other roles, currently serves as board chairman of the Employer Provider Interface Council of the Hospital Quality Foundation — put together an event to address that problem head-on.
WellSpent, a half-day conference held Feb. 28 in Greenville, brought together a broad mix of business and health care stakeholders for a series of breakout sessions. The goal of the conference was to highlight the importance of health care for new or existing economic development.
Specific goals included:
- Establish private-public sector collaborations around the health of South Carolinians.
- Address the current and future employees needed to support business development in South Carolina.
- Plug the health care gap to improve the wellbeing of the state’s population.
- Build upon how employers’ efforts to improve the wellbeing of their employees and family members.
- Explore partnership opportunities in specific areas of health needs.
Vogenburg said communication between these two camps is increasingly vital, given the importance of health care access for a region’s long-term growth.
“You look at how corporations are putting more emphasis on a stronger-educated workforce, which starts all the way in elementary school and through college and technical schools,” Vogenburg said. “We’ve got to do the same thing with health care.”
The reality is, not all health care operates on the same level, he added. A corporation from New York or Chicago might set up shop in South Carolina under the assumption that “health care is health care,” without realizing the state has many issues that have not been properly addressed.
“You need to have health care integrated in with all the other pieces of this economic-development puzzle,” Vogenburg said.
The conference is just the starting point for a much larger statewide initiative to link business and health care leaders, with future conferences planned for the future.
Vogenburg said the main impetus is to get the right people at the table to start talking.
“Everybody knows now what the problems are now,” he said. “It’s how you get to the solutions that matters.”