Umpqua Health broke ground Friday on the site of what will be a two-story medical health building by next year.

The groundbreaking ceremony took the traditional golden shovel a step further: Umpqua Health CEO Brent Eichman used an excavator to dig into a corner of an old warehouse currently standing on the lot. He made some progress on the warehouse’s metal awning.

The mostly undeveloped, 7-acre lot is located just north of the NE Stephens Street and Newton Creek Road intersection. It sits between the Flury Supply Company logging supplies store and a Shell gas station. The Flury Family formerly owned the lot and sold it to Umpqua Health.

The new facility will be about 25,000 square feet in size. Construction will start in earnest in the next couple of months, and Eichman said he hopes the facility will be open by mid-2018. The project’s budget stands at about $10 million, Eichman said.

“I think this is symbolic of our commitment to reinvest in the community in which we all live and work,” he said. “That’s the impetus behind it.”

Harmon Construction, of Coos Bay, will provide general contracting services. Umpqua Health is also employing engineering services from Roseburg-based I.E. Engineering and Pinnacle Western, Inc.

Umpqua Health currently operates a primary care clinic on Harvard Avenue with a staff of 15 providers.

Eichman said the expansion is a response to Douglas County’s growing medical needs.

“We have a very tight-knit medical community,” he said in a speech at the ceremony. “One that oftentimes struggles to provide primary care access just by virtue of being a rural community. At the same time, communities in rural Oregon and rural parts across the country, frankly, struggle to attract and retain medical professionals.”

Meanwhile, he said, Douglas County’s population is aging.

“The demand for healthcare services continues to increase at a pretty steady pace,” Eichman said. “This facility will do a number of things for us. Number one, it will increase access to primary care. Number two, it will ease the burden felt by our existing community of medical providers. Number three, it will create big stimulator to our local economy.”

Commissioner Tim Freeman spoke at the ceremony. His staff compiled a list of statistics showing how the new facility will benefit the community.

In 2015, Umpqua Health directly employed 185 people, he said. It supported $21.1 million in total labor income and constituted more than $38 million in total output to the county’s economy.

The community, meanwhile, needs additional health services. He said there is a single primary care physician for every set of 1,516 county residents.

“Good health and improved access to care are definitely areas of need in our community,” Freeman said. “But just as important is having a growing, locally based company that’s responsible for creating jobs and supporting industries beyond its own.”

Reporter April Ehrlich can be reached at 541-957-4202 or aehrlich@nrtoday.com.

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