Networking at the Pinellas Park Medical District Member Mixer June 26 are newcomers to the district, from left, Dwayne Pate, pharmacy manager for the Neighborhood Walmart opening at 7500 66th St. July 17; Barbara Lally with Tampa General Hospital and Jay Kerrick, store manager for the Neighborhood Walmart.
PINELLAS PARK – A group of business professionals gathered for Pinellas Park Medical District’s monthly Member Mixer June 26.
The event, held at the Pinellas Park Cheddar’s, fulfilled one of the district’s primary roles to the medical industry businesses along Park Boulevard and 66th Street: networking.
“I do lots and lots of networking. Gads of it,” said independent insurance agent Helen Fitzell between conversations with other district members. “It’s my life.”
Fitzell is not alone in the growing network of Pinellas Park business people working to promote and expand the concentration of healthcare and medical-related businesses in the T-shaped district. Since its inception in August of last year, the medical district has grown to about 207 participants, with more participating in mixers and meetings every month, said Lan Pratt, chair of the district’s board of directors
“The medical district is very dynamic, because it really has a big arena of different types of businesses – from surgeons to cancer facilities to community health centers. And then we have our support services as well,” Pratt explained.
The district is focused on self-promotion currently.
“Right now, we’re focusing on getting out there and meeting members and talking to them about what they feel is most important,” Pratt said.
In March, the district announced that National Strategies Public Relations, a Tampa-based company of which Pratt is a part, would head its marketing efforts. Brochures and packets to offer to physician offices and healthcare-related businesses have been put together to help spread the word. A membership committee was formed to help develop participation. Fourteen volunteers meet with members and potential members to “build on that collaboration,” Pratt said.
“We’re just really seeing the synergy with everybody beginning to grow,” she said.
Additional promotional efforts include an increased presence on social media, a monthly e-newsletter, highlighting one of the district members with a press release and participation in Pinellas Park’s Country in the Park in March, which Pratt said was a great success. The district, partnered with the city of Pinellas Park, was allotted a whole section of the business promotional space.
“That was a really big hit and that brought a lot of awareness,” Pratt said.
The district is a part of the Pinellas Park/Gateway Chamber of Commerce. Business participants must be a member of the chamber and then pay a $100 fee to join the medical district itself. The extra fee goes directly back into promotional efforts for the district.
“We’re just really seeing the synergy with everybody beginning to grow,” Pratt said. “Everybody that’s working with medical district is a volunteer.”
Business membership has its privileges. The district hosts monthly workshops to provide its members with information on relevant topics.
“We’re bringing in speakers that really speak to what healthcare providers and industries would like to know,” Pratt said. “There (are) a lot of things happening out there. Just trying to keep up with all the regulations, it’s very confusing, and a lot of people don’t have time for that.”
Past speakers have discussed the economics of healthcare and how to deal with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPPA. This month’s workshop will cover electronic medical records. Bringing the topics to the district’s “backyard” increases accessibility of the information to its members, Pratt said.
The district also helps organize local community events. Most recently, it hosted a spaghetti lunch to raise funds for the family of Eric Kaganis, the 25-year-old killed in a forklift accident June 25 at USP Structural Connectors in Pinellas Park.
“Our hearts immediately were affected when we heard the news about this tragic accident. We couldn’t help but come together in support,” Pratt stated in a press release.
On Aug. 10, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the district will support the Pinellas County Osteopathic Medical Society’s back-to-school health fair, in which it will offer free school and sports physicals for the new year.
The event, which the medical district also supported last year, will be held at a major partner with the district, the St. Petersburg College Caruth Education Center, 7200 66th St. N. in Pinellas Park. Last year’s event assisted 200 families, Pratt said.
“It was such a great turnout, and there was a lot of collaboration there,” she added.
Participants in the mixer June 26 agreed that the district was an easy way to connect to relevant members of the business community.
“I’m just new in the area, just getting to know the district. I love it. It’s great, a great group of people,” said Julie Maahs of Cool Trader Pro. “It’s connected me with the business entrepreneurs in the area. That’s what we’re looking for.”
In the end, the purpose of the district is to connect and unify the Pinellas Park medical community.
“You can even come right to Pinellas Park – and surrounding areas for the associate members – and really have top-notch healthcare providers in the area that can support them,” Pratt said.