The Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA) is awarding 1.5 million dollars in Rural Economic Development Grants, made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, for projects that help promote job creation in rural Arizona. Three Flagstaff health and technology organizations are major recipients.
Winning Organizations in Flagstaff
The three grant recipients in Flagstaff are Mountain Heart LLC, a locally-owned and nationally-accredited medical facility; PathoGene, a medical diagnostics company dedicated to identifying infectious microbes using cutting edge DNA technologies; and Machine Solutions, a global supplier of process and testing solutions to the medical device industry, including processes related to catheter, stent and heart valve technology.
The organizations were judged on a rigorous set of criteria, including job creation, leveraged dollars, aggressive timelines, cost effectiveness, sustainability of their project, regional impact and management capacity.
Supporting Investment and Creating Jobs
“Arizona’s rural communities are an important facet of the economic vitality of the state,” said Kristen Hellmer, director of communications for the Arizona Commerce Authority. “The ACA is committed to helping rural communities with job creation and increased capital investment. Through the Rural Economic Development Grant Program, the ACA is providing these communities with $1.5 million to sustain economic development projects with a focus on much needed job growth.”
Mountain Heart received over six figures of grant money to expand preventive heath initiatives in rural areas like Winslow and Page.
“Our plan for the ACA grant funds is to create jobs and reduce health care costs to those who are most in need of the savings,” said Michael Zervas, CEO of Mountain Heart. “The quality preventative care we will provide in rural areas is great for patients’ health and pocketbooks and will save the state of Arizona a lot of money.”
Zervas says Winslow will be first in line for expansion, since it is a connector community for reservations and other outlying areas in Northern Arizona. Mountain Heart will also prioritize development of their clinic in Page and intends to expand to other areas in rural Arizona soon. They expect to hire a minimum of one physician, one mid-level practitioner and two medical assistants at each location.
One of the arguments Mountain Heart made in their application for the grant had to do with their unique management system. Mountain Heart is one of a few organizations worldwide to apply a management system called Lean Six Sigma to health care. The system came out of manufacturing over 30 years ago and has since spread to many industries around the globe. Proponents of the system believe it drastically improves the efficiency of an organization.
“What the Lean Six Sigma system means for our patients is that we can make health care much more affordable,” explained Zervas. “Where an EKG might cost an insured patient $300 out-of-pocket somewhere else, it would be only $30 here with the same insurance. For working-class families in Flagstaff and rural Northern Arizona, that can make a big difference.”
Zervas thanks Julie Pastrick, president/CEO of the Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce, for her extensive assistance with the grant.
Scott Mickelson, aftermarket and service group leader at Machine Solutions, says they plan to use the Rural Development Grant to establish an “aftermarket and service group” dedicated to supporting preexisting medical equipment customers.
“This group will allow us to provide quality service to our customers by establishing a dedicated group of people to service the equipment and help with replacements and upgrades,” Mickelson said.
NACET, Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, helped Machine Solutions secure the grant.
Todd Snowden, president and CEO of PathoGene, tells us his company was awarded grant funds to develop a new laboratory for infectious disease research. Snowden credits John Saltonstall of the City of Flagstaff for approaching PathoGene about the grant.
“We plan to use the grant money to move forward with the creation of a clinical lab that will provide research, using the latest DNA methods, into infectious diseases such as Valley Fever,” said Snowden. “The most important part of developing a lab is hiring the personnel. We do have a number of steps before we begin hiring, but we will be hiring for the lab within the year.”
PathoGene is also a semifinalist in the ACA’s Arizona Innovation Challenge, which supports technology commercialization in early stage ventures. The winners of this grant will be awarded between $100,000 and $250,000, making it the largest financial prize of its kind in the country. Winners of the Arizona Innovation Challenge will be announced in May. FBN