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The Sanford Burnham Revival


During the Jan. 23 meeting of Orange County Commissioners weighing two proposals to resuscitate the dwindling Sanford Burnham Prebys Institute (SBP), the difference between for-profit versus non-profit attributes seemed overlooked.

The University of Central Florida (UCF) outlined a plan to provide $2 million annually in rent and, after five years, $3 million annually in taxes. Florida Hospital's (FH) plan covers facility operation and maintenance costs, but not rent. No taxes.

Orlando, home to two of the nation's largest non-profit hospital organizations, needs the tax money.

On a cost comparison of UCF and FH proposals, UCF plans to invest more than $85 million in the first year versus FH's $100 million over a decade. Both proposals call for roughly the same number of jobs created, with UCF pledging some 300 jobs after five years, compared to the same number for FH within 10 years.

After five years, the economic impact of UCF's plan is projected at $578 million, compared to FH's $363 million.

Ten years ago, SBI received a $367.2 million incentive package, including $40.7 million from Orange County, to lure the La Jolla, Calif.-based institution to Orlando. At that time, UCF invested $50 million in the project, more than FH ($14 million), Orlando Health ($17 million), and Disney ($11 million) combined. The state invested $155 million, Orlando $32.7 million. Lake Nona Land Company (Tavistock) contributed $31.1 million; private philanthropists covered $15 million. Florida's Blood Centers supplied $784,000.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs requested both proposals at the Tuesday meeting, after FH's plan to bring in Moffitt Cancer Center as a partner via a memorandum of understanding inked last year was challenged by UCF's multi-partner proposal in December, including the for-profit chain Hospital Corporation of America (NYSE: HCA) and Provision for advanced proton beam therapy. FH's agreement calls for the creation of Florida Hospital-Moffitt Cancer Center, with the transfer of the building and equipment completed by April 16.

The contentious meeting ended with commissioners urging Jacobs to consider UCF's proposition or open up the bidding process.

"We're honored to receive county support for our university-based cancer research and treatment center and look forward to the next steps," said UCF College of Medicine Dean Deborah German, MD. "We believe our center provides more seamless care to patients and increased opportunities for cutting-edge research and is also the next step to creating a top-tier academic medical center for our community ... to continue developing Medical City as a national and global healthcare destination."

Florida Hospital declined comment at press time.

"The Sanford Burnham Prebys building is a taxpayer owned facility as a result of the financial incentives provided by the State of Florida, Orange County and the City of Orlando to attract the company to Central Florida. Orlando Health believes the public should be provided the opportunity to participate in discussions about the building's future. A decision should only come after appropriate public input and thorough review of all contractual terms in any agreement," said Andy Gardiner, SVP External Affairs, Orlando Health, who was a last-minute addition to the commission's agenda. He didn't hint at Orlando Health's plans.

Because FH and UCF plan to create a comprehensive cancer center at SBP, Orlando Health's back-seat stance until now may seem somewhat surprising since the non-profit organization opened the first remote MD Anderson Cancer Center 20 years ago and cares for more than 80,000 patients. Several years ago, when new leadership at MD Anderson's Houston home base altered its business model in a manner inconsistent with Orlando Health, the facility name was changed to the University of Florida Health Center (UFHealth). When the Marjorie and Leonard Williams Center for Proton Therapy opened two years ago, it became the first center to offer proton therapy treatments in Central Florida, the third statewide, the twenty-third in the U.S., of only 67 proton therapy centers in the world.

Because the local community invested heavily in land and building development, the state Department of Economic Opportunity deferred the final decision on SBP's fate to the three local funding partners - Orange County, Orlando and Tavistock. Their unanimous decision also needs the blessing of SBP, which is not in default of its contracts and is working closely with the local community.

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