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Business

Does health IT need market centers?

If medical specialists or professional groups decide to stop flitting among resort cities and settle down to save money, they will be in town to see what the suppliers have to offer.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

One of the first stories I worked on after moving to Atlanta in 1982 was about the construction of a technology market space. (Picture from Market Center Management.)

The Inforum, built by John Portman's Atlanta Market Center, was going to do for tech what his gift mart and apparel mart had done for those industries.

Retailers would visit during specific market periods, shop the wholesalers, and build their businesses.

It didn't work. The Inforum building itself became the headquarters for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. Tech marketing stayed at the big shows like Comdex for nearly 20 years before moving to Taiwan, and retailing turned to big boxes who could insist suppliers come to them.

So now, with a huge boom in health IT and health spending expected, does this industry need a market center?

Cleveland and Nashville think so. Both have plans to take on New York's World Product Centre (across from the Javits Convention Center) with year-round market facilities.

Why Cleveland? Why Nashville? Good question. While both are home to major medical facilities -- the Cleveland Clinic and Hospital Corp. of America -- neither city is a major air hub.

Cleveland's deal seems to be collapsing before our eyes. The Nashville deal would replace its current convention center but seems to be on solid financial ground. Its operator, Market Center Management, is based in Dallas and had a tech center called Infomart that rivaled the Inforum back in the day.

The deal with a market is that sellers pay the bills and the center operator brings in the buyers. Nashville estimates it needs 600-1,000 companies to sign leases.

For the suppliers this can be a good deal, assuming the sellers show up. It costs less to rent a few rooms than to chase deals around the country. But can hospitals and clinics be convinced to set aside "market time" and make regular buying trips?

I personally think a key will be the ability to attract the kinds of small trade shows and meetings that presently represent these markets. If medical specialists or professional groups decide to stop flitting among resort cities and settle down to save money, they will be in town to see what the suppliers have to offer.

But these look more like real estate deals to me.

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