For many residents of Falls Church, the public school system is the source of the City’s identity. With on-time graduation rates north of 95% and average SAT scores in excess of 1,700 it is a census driver and a source of pride and identity.
For others it is the sense of community and neighborhood which is scarce elsewhere but plentiful here. Still others will point to the non-profit and arts communities with their concern for others, their ability foster a sense of community and enrich our lives, and their concern for the quality of our lives. From a business perspective it is all about small business especially retail. Very few would identify any other specific industry but the data would tell us otherwise; healthcare a dominant industry in Falls Church.
A 2009 Falls Church City Comprehensive Annual Financial Report lists the top ten businesses (determined by number of employees) and four of the top ten are in healthcare. Of Course the school system is the largest employer followed by the City. Kaiser Permanente is next followed by Tax Analysts and Koons Ford. BG Healthcare Services and Giant are next followed by Care Options, Don Beyer Volvo and Home Instead Senior Care. Just missing the list with 65 employees is Sunrise of Falls Church. In addition to the healthcare organizations are a plethora of primary care physicians, podiatrists, dentists, chiropractors, and therapists. The importance of this industry to the economic and employment base of Falls Church is why the City Council made the correct decision in providing an exception to allow Body Dynamics to relocate to the City.
The healthcare organizations located in Falls Church are not run of the mill operations; they are leaders in their fields. Care Options; for example, was founded more than 20 years ago by Ann O’Neil. She is widely recognized for her leadership in the field of Geriatrics. She recognized a human need and responded by developing a successful business model. Her work, directly or indirectly, made it possible for companies such as Home Instead to exist.
The healthcare organizations located in Falls Church are not run of the mill operations; they are leaders in their fields.
In addition to attracting the entrepreneur, Kaiser and Sunrise of Falls Church are part of larger organizations, yet found a home for part of their operations in Falls Church. In the case of Sunrise, a public private partnership was negotiated. It provides of an income based rent for citizens of the City or certain relatives of current residents. It has been a very successful program and is a good example of how local government and business can work together to meet the needs of both community and business. Additionally, Sunrise is a strong advocate and practitioner of person centered care while many other organizations are just trying to define person centered care.
It should be noted that a significant portion of the health care industry in Falls Church is focused on providing services and assistance to older adults. As America, and Falls Church age, this is going to be a growth segment and will extend beyond health care.
At the other end of the spectrum are the sole practitioners like Dr. Raymond Solano. He is nationally recognized for his knowledge and skills as a Chiropractic Doctor and treats world class athletes, weekend warriors as well as non athletes. Likewise, Body Dynamics has a highly trained and well educated staff, an impressive clientele that includes world class dancers and they will provide physical therapy to the rest of us.
Over the past 25 years the health care industry has slowly migrated to Falls Church and now it represents an important part of the City’s financial and employment base. As we plan our future, we would do well to consider how to build upon this naturally occurring asset. No one need go so far as providing financial incentives to locate here; however, we should be careful in crafting rules and regulations so as to not create barriers that will slow the growth of this industry, especially the sector addressing the needs of older adults.
The Greater Falls church Chamber of Commerce should consider establishing a Health Care Committee or subcommittee whose purpose would be to be to give a voice to this industry on common concerns and to advise policy makers on measures that will foster the growth of the industry locally.
It is not likely that residents of Falls church will ever point to the health care industry as a source of identity but our thought leaders, business leaders and those who develop public policy should recognize the importance of the industry and determine how its growth figures into the employment and financial growth of the City.
Gary Hughes is a licensed Assisted Living Facility Administrator and is on The Board of Directors of the Greater Falls Church Chamber of Commerce.