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University/hospital project should be welcomed with open arms

September 04, 2008|By TIM ROWLAND

Gotta admit, I didn't see this one coming.

Seems it would have fallen into the "pigs fly" lexicon.

"Yes, I'll give up eating meat -- when an Indian company builds a new university and hospital in Hagerstown."

But out of the blue comes the announcement that Vinayaka Missions America University Inc. will indeed buy the old Allegheny Energy building and convert it into a four-year university, and eventually build a new medical something or other alongside it. A university and a hospital.

You know, for perhaps the first time in my writing career, I truly don't know what to say.

It's great, I guess. So long as it's not another Role Models situation.

Yet another new hospital. I've heard about Asian efficiency, but -- you mean it was really that easy? Where were these guys in 2000? I wonder if they know our, uh, history. It just won't feel the same if the community can't agonize over the project for the better part of a decade.

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"We understand that (a hospital/trauma center) would require regulatory approvals and such, but that would be a goal," pro-chancellor A.S. Ganesan said.

Right. In Hagerstown, it's the "and such" that can bite you. Wait until they hear about the 27 "conditions" that City Hall lays on them.

And do they know that we can't fill the university we have now? I wonder if this will be like having two ice rinks. Maybe they can build us another runway.

So now we're to have two hospitals, like two gas stations across the intersection from each other. I hope we can expect a price war. Plasma: $3.45/gal.

I guess I'll put this into the "believe it when I see it category," but then I never thought I'd see a photo on the front page of a gentleman they call Chancellor A. Shanmugas(deep breath)undaram, in dark shades, surrounded by county officials looking as if they'd been upholstered by Rudyard Kipling. My first impression was, "Why are we running a picture of Jack Nicholson standing in the middle of four upright sofas?"

Quick cultural question: India borders China, so how come in India they have names like "Shanmugasundaram" and in China they have names like "Ho?" Of course, over there, they probably think a name like "Timothy" is freaking hilarious.

But how cool would it be if this works? Here comes a company, not looking for handouts, incentives or tax breaks, that walks in, pays cash, settles on a plan and follows through. That concept sounds so, well, foreign.

Maybe we could learn from it. Not every project needs to turn into a social war. Not every project, no matter how straightforward need turn into the Manhattan Project.

At least it's a change from the status quo. Usually we're losing jobs to India. So I think we should welcome them with open arms -- although probably there's some guy in his white tank top and underpants, sitting at his kitchen table in Calcutta, phoning in to "Sanskrit Call" to complain about the outsourcing of jobs to America.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or by e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com.

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