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New clinic planned for Bagley

Dave Hengel, executive director of Greater Bemidji, standing south of U.S. Highway 2 with TEAM Industries in the background, points Wednesday to the site where a new Sanford Bagley clinic is planned. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BAGLEY – Nearly a year to the date that Sanford Health first came to Clearwater County, a new clinic is being announced here.

A new $1.75 million, 10,000-square-foot Sanford Bagley clinic is planned to be constructed this year along U.S. Highway 2 across from TEAM Industries in Bagley.

The clinic, expected to open by the end of the year, would replace the Sanford clinic attached to the Sanford Bagley Medical Center, nearly tripling the available clinic space from its current 3,600 square feet.

“We’re excited,” said Kirby Johnson, administrator of Sanford Bagley. “It’s going to be a lot of work but we’re just trying to do what is best for the community.”

An unprecedented partnership between multiple agencies is driving the project. Key players include Greater Bemidji, an economic-development agency, which will own the building; Sanford Health, which will lease and maintain the facility; the city of Bagley, now considering tax-increment financing and loan funds for the project; and TEAM Industries, which has donated $200,000 toward the clinic’s construction.

“It’s a very positive thing for our community,” said Bagley Mayor Sidney Michel, “to be able to get more doctors in town … it’s a plus.”

The building will be owned by Greater Bemidji and leased to Sanford Health for 10 years, at which point Sanford could opt to either extend the lease or buy the building outright.

“It’s a very unusual role for us,” said Dave Hengel, executive director of Greater Bemidji. “It’s not a role we would typically play.”

Funding will come from bank-qualified revenue bonds, and loans from the city of Bagley and Headwaters Regional Development Commission, Hengel said.

It will not be the first time Greater Bemidji has built and operated a building – it owns the Synergy Solutions building in the Bemidji Industrial Park – but it will mark the first such venture with a health care organization.

“For Greater Bemidji, this is an opportunity for our board to really demonstrate the ‘greater’ portion of our organization,” Hengel said.

He said the board carefully considered whether the role was appropriate for the agency, which aims to create quality jobs and improve the economic base of the greater Beltrami County community.

“If it wasn’t critical to the Bagley community and it wasn’t important to one of our key customers – TEAM Industries – we probably wouldn’t do this,” Hengel said. “It’s a pretty nontraditional role for us, but our board realizes that it’s pretty important for one of our key customers, a key community.”

Johnson said the new clinic will provide opportunities to centralize services spread out among various sites and expand existing health-care services in Bagley, including therapy offerings.

“What we’re trying to do at Sanford is keep care as local as we can,” Johnson said. “We’re really looking forward to growing the health-care services available in Bagley.”

Hengel said Paul Hanson, president of Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota, who also is a Greater Bemidji board member, first approached him last summer about a potential project.

“The first thing I did was call TEAM (Industries),” Hengel said. “It was a very important project for them.”

TEAM Industries responded with a $200,000 donation toward the project.

“Not only is this good for our community but it will be great for our personnel as well,” said Jim Russ, TEAM Industries’ director of corporate development. “We think it’s an outstanding opportunity for the community.”

Johnson, speaking to why Sanford did not pursue the project on its own, said the partnership among the key players is a “win-win” for everyone.

Additionally, he said, Sanford has numerous capital projects underway throughout the region, including a new 46,000-square-foot Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Center at Sanford Bemidji Medical Center.

A collaborative approach meant the Bagley project would not have to wait until Sanford’s next fiscal year, he noted.

“We saw the need was there now,” Johnson said.

Sanford Health purchased Clearwater Health Services, based in Bagley, on Feb. 1, 2012, taking ownership of the staffing and management of the Bagley hospital, attached clinic, Clearwater Ambulance Service and the Clearbrook clinic, but not the buildings themselves.

The Clearbrook clinic, which hired a new nurse practitioner who begins work on Monday, will be unaffected by the new Bagley clinic, Johnson said.

“This shows Bagley will have a long-term health-care presence in the community,” Hengel said. “If there’s an opportunity for Sanford to invest additional resources throughout the region, that’s a win for (Greater Bemidji) as well.”

What’s next?

The Bagley City Council will hold a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 12 as it considers using tax-increment financing to support the project.

Anyone with questions or concerns about the project is encouraged to attend the hearing.