The Ashland Chamber of Commerce serves an important role in Ashland as the lead economic development arm for the city. To this end, the chamber creates publications such as the Living and Doing Business Guide, websites such as ashlandbusinessresource.com, gathers and conducts research on Ashland and the regional economy and produces educational workshops and meetings. Conferences such as the Global Conferences on Business and Culture have generated important conversations on Ashland’s place in the international market.

Most recently, the Ashland Chamber has produced the Ashland Innovators Conference, highlighting important industries in Ashland’s complex economy and opportunities for job creation and growth. Previous conferences have featured technology developers, the film and video industry and our region’s thriving food and beverage manufacturing industries.

The Ashland Innovators Conference this year will be on emerging trends, challenges and economic opportunities in the Health Care Industry on April 28 at Ashland Hills Hotel and Suites. These conferences are produced in partnership with the city of Ashland with the goal of identifying strengths in the economy to help local businesses expand, stimulate investment, create connections for new business, encourage entrepreneurship and identify education and job training opportunities.

Why a conference on the health care industry?

• Nationally, health care accounts for 8 percent of the GDP (in Jackson County it is almost 14 percent);

• Healthcare is one of the largest industries in southern Oregon with employment projected to grow 22 percent across the state from 2012–2024, creating continued high demand for health care workers;

• The economic impact of health care in the region is $1.2 billion (a figure that likely is understated as the it does not include construction of medical facilities, insurance, retail pharmaceuticals, health care education or related industries);

• Technological advances and innovations are improving the delivery of health care affording opportunities for business investment and economic development;

• Holistic trends continue to grow as there is a shift from inpatient to outpatient and preventative care;

• Aging Baby Boomers require increased care and will demand new products and services; and

• The health care industry in Ashland is strong and growing with 160 firms, an average annual pay of $42,958 and total payroll of $56,131,741 in 2016.

Conference keynote speaker will be Dr. Joe Robertson, OHSU (Oregon Health Sciences University) president, who will discuss health care innovations for the future. Sheila Clough, CEO Asante Ashland Community Hospital, will be the emcee.

Guy Tauer, Oregon Employment Department Regional Economist, will provide current labor and market statistics and projected future job growth.

The first panel will discuss "Population Health, Functional Medicine and Innovative Technology" with business leaders such as Michael Stone, M.D., M.S., and Aly Hollewijn, PLEXIS Healthcare Systems, among others.

The second panel is "Challenges and Opportunities — Education and Workforce Needs" with representatives from SOU (Southern Oregon University), RCC (Rogue Community College), OIT (Oregon Institute of Technology) and OHSU discussing education and job training opportunities to meet increasing workforce demand in the health care industry.

Attend the Ashland Innovators Conference on April 28 to learn about these trends and opportunities. Visit www.ashlandbusinessresource.com/Health17 to find out more and to register. Limited space available.

Sandra Slattery is executive director of the Ashland Chamber of Commerce. For more information, go to www.ashlandchamber.com, call 541-482-3486 or stop by the office at 110 East Main St.