Ann Miller, director of the Buda Economic Development Corp., said in the next eight to 10 years Buda will no longer be a commuter town but a place in which residents will want to work, play and live.
“We will have your entry-level high school and college jobs, all the way up to your high-tech, high-paying jobs so that people can commute their five to 10 minutes across town,” Miller said. “You can have all your goods and services in the city so you do not have to leave the city limits if you don’t want to, and hopefully, you won’t want to.”
These community changes will be in a large part due to the major medical centers entering Buda in 2019.
In April, Baylor Scott & White Health broke ground on its first full-service hospital in Buda at 5330 White Wing Trail, Buda. Across the street at 5225 White Wing Trail, Buda, Ascension Texas officials turned the soil for Seton Health Center, and St. David’s HealthCare broke ground on a 24/7 emergency center to 15610 I-35, Buda.
The medical capital of Hays County?
According to Miller, Buda has the potential to become the medical capital of Hays County with Baylor Scott & White and Seton owning 19 and 8 acres of property, respectively, in the Sunfield Municipal Utility District; St. David’s claiming approximately 2 acres of land near Cabela’s; and approximately 15 acres available in Buda for additional medical space.
“We really haven’t gone and [said] we want all this health care here. What sort of happened is we knew it was lacking so we put some information out there that we were interested,” she said. “Ideally we will get someone to build some sort of medical office complex. So as things start going under construction, we’re going to have more and more medical-related companies, and doctors’ offices will move here.”
Baylor Scott & White, St. David’s and Ascension officials agreed and said Buda—a growing city along the I-35 corridor—was an ideal location to bring more health care services so people could get can get care closer to home rather than having to travel to Austin.
As Buda continues to grow, City Manager Kenneth Williams said the city has laid down the appropriate infrastructure in anticipation of companies such as Baylor Scott & White, St. David’s and Ascension, and city staff will continue to look for ways to further develop Buda. Projects include finding ways to fund street and drainage projects, developing parkland for recreational activities, encouraging more diverse and affordable housing, and implementing a public transit system.
Miller added that Baylor Scott & White is funding its own public roadway infrastructure—including a turn lane, driveway access, and water and wastewater connection—which will not only benefit the hospital but also the local residents who use the road.
Citizens can expect growth in the retail market as well.
Miller said people will start to see more local, regional and national sit-down restaurants popping up along the I-35 corridor, the Sunfield MUD area, and off FM 967 and FM 1626.
“We are reaching out to retailers all the time, but we are now having restaurants reach out to us saying, ‘We’ve known about Buda, but we haven’t been interested; now we’re interested,’” she said. “There are already some [retail] projects in the works because of this rumor that has been swirling for over a year about [Baylor Scott & White] coming here.”
Creating a workforce pipeline
The Texas Workforce Commission projected a 22.4 percent increased need in health care and social services from 2014-24 in Central Texas.
Baylor Scott & White will bring approximately 150 new jobs to the area over four years. Ascension, which operates Seton Healthcare Hays, estimates that in the initial stage of the new facility, 50 new jobs will be created, and St. David’s will add approximately 25 jobs to Buda’s market.
Suzi Mitchell, Hays CISD career and technical education director, said the district works with medical conglomerates to see what they need so they can get their students prepared for a growing medical job market.
[Medical professionals] are such in demand that if we have our students trained and have their certification, [hospitals] need more people than we can put out. If [students] have a certification, [hospitals] will be fighting to get our kids. There is definitely a pipeline of getting students ready to go straight to work,” Mitchell said.
According to Mitchell, there are currently 657 HCISD students on a medical-related pathway.
“For so many years the nation was pushing kids to attend a four-year college, and vocational was a bad word. Everyone is now realizing it is important to have skilled laborers,” she said.
Ruth Welborn, dean of the College of Health Professions at Texas State University, agreed with Mitchell and said the more than-2,700 Texas State students studying in one of the college’s eight health care programs will have more options to choose from when doing clinical rotations and looking for jobs after graduation. This year 430 students will be graduating from Texas State with a medical-related degree.
While the majority of Austin Community College’s health sciences programs are offered at the Eastview campus in East Austin and the Round Rock campus, the community college system also hopes to offer a bachelor’s degree in nursing starting this fall and is waiting on approvals by various accredited college boards before beginning to advertise the program.
Because Buda currently does not have a full-service hospital, Gary Langshaw, Buda Emergency Medical Services chief, said when the city has its own hospital patients will benefit from shorter transport times.
“The turnaround time is faster. The patient gets to the hospital faster,” he said. “The second benefit would be that some companies pay us per mile, which goes towards the patient’s account. Since a hospital will be closer, there will be less money spent during transporting patients.”
Depending on traffic and road conditions, Langshaw said time in the ambulance from Buda to Seton Hays in Kyle takes about 10-15 minutes. When transporting to Austin, specifically the south part of Austin, it takes 15-20 minutes. If EMS is going to downtown Austin or Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, it can take anywhere from 20-40 minutes to transport patients.
As soon as Baylor Scott & White opens its facility in 2019, Langshaw said his team would immediately begin transporting patients to the hospital depending on the medical condition or request.
With two full-time 24/7 teams and two reserve teams, Langshaw said Buda EMS constantly tracks response times and will accommodate adding more personnel as the city grows.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, from 2010-16 Buda saw a 61.1 percent increase in population.
With Hays being the fourth fastest-growing county in the U.S. with populations of 10,000 or more, it is projected that Buda’s population will keep rapidly rising.
“It is within our five-year plan to add additional EMS units to our system. We want to maintain an acceptable level of response times,” he said. “Once we see response times are being affected by lack of ambulances or that turnaround time could be faster, we will begin making decisions to hire more personnel.”