Scenic photo of Dismals Canyon

Times-Daily | UNA/Shenqi deal finalized

August 16, 2013
In The News

 

UNA/Shenqi deal finalized

By Robert Palmer | Times-Daily | August 16, 2013

FLORENCE — Chinese businessman and entrepreneur Zhang Zhiting said Thursday his company and the University of North Alabama have planted a seed that will grow into a prosperous, healthy enterprise.

Zhang, chairman of Shenqi Ethnic Medicine College in China, bought the 154-acre former Florence Golf and Country Club from the city, which will become the base for the UNA U.S.-China International Institute. Zhang paid $2.1 million, the same approximate price the city paid for the property. The partnership will teach integrative health care and innovation management and lead to a master’s degree through the university.

Speaking through an interpreter Thursday during a ceremony at the university, Zhang told the elected and school officials present that he is confident of success.

“I am confident that, with the continuing support of the university and the community, this early seed we plant will take root here and flower in the future,” he said.

The integrative health program will train professionals to teach healthy lifestyle choices and habits. Zhang got a big laugh from the crowd with an assurance of long life.

“With the wisdom of the institute’s health and what we teach our students, all present here and in the community will live to be 100 years old,” he said.

University President William Cale said not only is Zhang a successful businessman, but a visionary.

“We intend for the first time to bring together knowledge on nutrition, exercise science, mental health, mind and body interactions, stress reduction, as well as modern methods of physical assessment of health and both traditional and non-traditional methods of therapy,” he said. “It is obvious to us all that health is an increasingly important topic.”

U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., of Haleyville, said the UNA/Shenqi partnership is the first master’s program in integrative health care that he is aware of in the country.

“This is an opportunity to grow lasting friendships and partnerships between our two nations,” he said.

As the integrative health program grows at the university and its practices spread across the country, it could become a significant economic engine for the Shoals.

Joel Anderson, a member of the university’s board of trustees and a businessman who has had business interests in China since the early 1970s, said Chinese businesses are now interested in establishing themselves in the United States.

“In both cases, the participating parties’ opportunities can be enormous,” he said. “Great things can happen for this community and this country.”

Cale said Zhang has met with architects and construction companies to prepare building the institute. The city bought the country club in late 2009 to house city offices and expand the adjacent municipal solid waste landfill. The landfill expansion was cancelled earlier, and the city has one year to relocate its offices.

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