Destination health care can be a powerful economic development engine. Consider that in Houston, 25 percent of all hotel stays are people visiting the Texas Medical Center.

Here in the greater New Orleans area, we have a similar opportunity. The VA is a regional center for our servicemen and women. Ochsner already is treating patients and training students from around the world. LSU, Tulane and Xavier are doing esteemed research. And now, the new $1.2 billion University Medical Center New Orleans, which opened last summer, is the final piece that truly gives the greater New Orleans area the critical mass to be a global center for destination health care.

UMC is possibly our region’s single biggest economic investment, and destination health care is the single biggest economic opportunity, over the next decade. New enterprises and companies already are relocating here, drawn by this promise. Tens of thousands of well-paying jobs will be created, over a range of skill sets.

With this in mind, what is at stake this legislative session is much more than the future of a hospital. What hangs in the balance is the future of our region that we have worked tirelessly to build — one with a thriving medical and research corridor; an exceptional learning environment for academic partners; and employment of thousands of citizens.

LCMC Health, the nonprofit partner of the state at UMC, has done its job running a world-class facility.

Now, it’s time for legislators and the state to do theirs by fully funding UMC. The economic heath and future of our city and region depend upon it.

Michael Hecht

president and CEO, Greater New Orleans Inc.

New Orleans