On Tuesday, May 17 near noon, Baptist senior leaders, Lafayette County officials, and City of Oxford leaders joined a large crowd to witness the placing of the final beam on the new Baptist North Mississippi hospital. Among the speakers were Jason Little, CEO and president of Baptist; Bill Henning, administrator and CEO of Baptist North Mississippi; and Ulysses “Coach” Howell, an Oxford Alderman.
Following brief remarks, the crowd counted down to signal the start of the lift. Robins & Morton Construction senior superintendent Dave Hultstrand has managed the project and explained the history behind topping out ceremonies.
“The tradition began centuries ago in Europe. When construction materials were mostly trees, they honored the felled trees by placing a tree at the highest point of the building. Today, we have a tree on the beam, as well as an American flag to signify this was built in America,” said Dave.
Bill Henning said before the project ends, more than 1,500 people will have worked on the project. More than $80 million will be spent with local Mississippi businesses during construction.
More than once, speakers pointed to the event as another milestone in Baptist’s long-term commitment to Oxford and North Mississippi. “This is a significant milestone for our organization. Oxford has grown as we have invested $160 million in the area. I’ve been told this is the biggest project ever in Lafayette County history,” said Little.
Little said he personally walked the property several times before Baptist purchased it. “It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come in just a couple of years.”
Following the ceremony, Baptist North Mississippi’s team hosted a light lunch for guests.
As the hospital takes shape, the tentative opening date is slated for late 2017.