FLORENCE — A Chinese company partnering with the University of North Alabama to develop an integrative health program appears ready to move forward on selecting a site for the endeavor, officials said Wednesday.
They said a news conference is scheduled today to discuss the project.
Florence Mayor Mickey Haddock confirmed a news conference is scheduled but declined to elaborate on the purpose of the gathering other than to say it involves the old Florence Golf and Country Club property. The city bought the property for $2 million in November 2009.
Zhang Zhiting, chairman of Shenqi Ethnic Medicine College, said he wants to work with UNA students and others in the Shoals to study and research changes in the mindset people have toward health care and lifestyle. Zhiting has stated he wants his company to be on the cutting edge of that change.
The company's headquarters is in the Guizhou Province of China.
Company officials have been in the Shoals in recent months in search of a campus-type site for the program, which provides credit hours in UNA's master's degree offering in health and human performance.
UNA spokesman Josh Woods said in October that company officials would visit the Shoals in November or early December to discuss land acquisition for the project.
The former country club site off Alabama 20 has previously been mentioned as a potential site. The site is now being used as an activities center for Florence seniors. City officials have said they would not disrupt the seniors program before a new center is in place.
University and city officials said no decisions have been made on whether the former golf course would be suitable for the health program.
Florence purchased the former country club and its about 160 acres as a fallback plan should it be needed to expand the sanitary landfill next door to the course.
The city has scrapped those expansion plans and has been looking for other uses for the property, including selling it.
The integrative health program, which has been approved by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, would focus on training professionals on wellness and preventative health tactics such as stress management, nutrition, exercise science and mental health.
The integrative health center would also have a garden featuring herbs and plants from around the world. The garden would serve as a sort of visitor's attraction and will be used in research.
Company officials have said they would likely have about 100 students involved in the program's initial classes. They have said they want a site large enough to expand and that their long-term vision includes a facility with 1,000 students.
The research there could be used worldwide.
Company officials have said they will finance most of the cost associated with the program.
Mike Goens can be reached at mike.goens@TimesDaily.com or 256-740-5740.