Growth through partnerships is best path to prosperity

Johnson City Press • May 10, 2020 at 10:30 AM

If you’re going to talk the talk, you need to walk the walk.

Ballad Health Chairman and CEO Alan Levine has been an unabashed advocate of the growing push for regional cooperation throughout the healthcare system’s footprint. At every opportunity, Levine — along with hundreds of business leaders and politicians — has made a case that we’re stronger together because we have so much to offer.

Levine has talked the talk.

On Thursday a concrete example of walking the walk was unveiled when Ballad and Ensemble Health Partners announced a strategic partnership, but with a regional twist. Not only will the two entities partner, but Ensemble will establish a new operations center at a yet-to-be-determined location in the region.

Ensemble provides full revenue cycle services — including billing — for clients all over the United States and in Europe.

“We could place our newest regional operations service center anywhere, but we chose the Appalachian Highlands as a place we want to invest, grow and become part of the fabric of the community,” said Ensemble founder and chief executive officer, Judson Ivy. “We could not have done this without the innovative leadership of Ballad Health. They sold us on the region — from the culture and work ethic of the people here in Appalachia to the incredible access to quality education, low cost of living, and the infrastructure, we believe this is an incredible opportunity to become part of the growth story of this region.”

Opportunity. Investment. Growth.

Ballad leadership and its board of directors saw an opportunity to make vast improvements in its billing system which, frankly, has been a major source of angst and complaints from those most critical of the merger that created Ballad.

The opportunity, unanimously approved by the board, brings to the region a new employer making a significant investment in what we already know is a great place to live, learn, play and work.

With the investment we will see growth we certainly need. We will see growth in incomes which means growth in our tax base which will mean more financial support for services. That all leads to regional success.

Trying to entice business and industry from high-tax states like New Jersey, New York and Connecticut represents a time-consuming and expensive exercise if a region is to compete nationally or even globally.

Optimizing relationships with partners and vendors — as in the case of Ballad and Ensemble — is more direct, less expensive, quicker and will almost always yield more positive results. Negotiations leading to these partnerships have the advantage of a comfort level between entities, individuals and leadership teams that already know one another. That negates much of the initial courtship that can consume months of precious time.

Everyone wants a slam dunk new employer with 5,000 new jobs. Those are nice dreams, but hard dreams to realize. Not impossible, but darn hard and rare.

The 500 new jobs — nothing to sneeze at — promised by the Ballad-Ensemble partnership represent a more realistic vision of how we successfully grow and prosper.

Does your business have such relationships you might optimize? Do you think in those terms? Non-traditional thinking and approaching partnerships with a regional mindset will add more jobs and more regional stability. Ballad and Ensemble proved that Thursday.