Wednesday, Apr 25, 2018
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ProMedica has size to make a difference

Oostra tells Chamber it’s about community

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    Keynote speaker Randy Oostra of ProMedica tells the audience at the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce how improving the community adds to its overall health.

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Imagine two charts that are side by side, said Randy Oostra, chief executive officer of Toledo-based ProMedica health-care system.

On the left is a description of ProMedica, a successful health-care provider in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan with 300 sites; 14 hospitals; 17,000 employees and assets and finances that place it in the top 15 percent in the country.

But on the right, Mr. Oostra said, is metro Toledo: poverty and mental health problems, 70 percent of adults overweight, and the highest infant mortality rate in Ohio.

“What do you do with the right side of the chart?” the CEO asked 650 people who filled the Premier Banquet hall in south Toledo Thursday for the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 123rd annual meeting.

The solution, he said, lies with improving the community.

According to Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements, a book by the Gallup organization, “the difference between a good life and a great life is this issue of community,” said Mr. Oostra, the meeting’s keynote speaker.

And an area’s “anchor institutions,” such as art museums, educational institutions, and health-care providers like ProMedica, have the ability to take a long-term view at troublesome issues in order to help change things for the better, he said.

“The way they do that is they change this ‘i’ in illness to a ‘we,’ as in wellness and maybe do some things from a well-being standpoint across the community,” Mr. Oostra said. “The bottom line here is: the anchor institutions are key drivers to opportunity.”

Over the last few years ProMedica changed its business model — it became a health care, real estate, and development company — to better tackle Toledo’s social ills. “The idea is, if we don’t do those other things, we’re never going to create the right treatment,” Mr. Oostra said.

It has fought obesity and hunger by starting a food reclamation program, providing short-term food packets, and having doctors write food prescriptions. It also identified city ‘food deserts’ and helped build an inner city grocery store.

But Mr. Oostra said he realized that with ProMedica’s size, it can address many problems through job creation and economic development.

“As ProMedica grew, we had over 30-plus locations. We really needed to put people together,” he said. And by putting people all in one place, the former Edison steam plant downtown, the health-care provider could effect huge change, he added.

“We knew if we really wanted to help the community, we should go downtown,” Mr. Oostra said. “As Toledo goes, so goes the county,” he said.

Plans to put an eventual 2,000 workers in the steam plant led ProMedica to buy and redevelop nearby Fort Industry Square. That has spurred new momentum for the stalled Marina District project and generated interest in creating music and art festivals for downtown, the CEO said.

Mr. Oostra said the area should set a goal for Toledo, now 75th, to make the top 10 of the Best Cities in the America list.

“That really is going to drive our future, because what Gallup said is the difference between a good life and a great life is community, and you are the people who can make that happen,” he said.

Earlier, Chamber president Wendy Gramza noted that the 650 members was a new attendance record for the organization, which has seen its ranks swell in the last year. The Toledo chamber in 2016 received a five-star rating from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a designation awarded to just 1.5 percent of all the chambers nationwide.

Ms. Gramza said the chamber had a huge success in 2016 by reviving and promoting the Toledo Air Show. Yet even with its best marketing, it was unable to convince Air Force officials to place the new F-35 jet fighter at Toledo’s 180th Air National Guard fighter wing at Toledo Express Airport.

But the Toledo chamber will continue lobbying and hopes to succeed in the next round of decisions on who will receive the F-35, she said.

Contact Jon Chavez at: or 419-724-6128.

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