Shoals Chamber Approves Resolution Supporting UNA Growth Initiatives

Jan. 20, 2012


FLORENCE, Ala. – The Shoals Chamber of Commerce board of directors has approved a resolution declaring its support for two major growth initiatives by the University of North Alabama: the university’s progress toward the NCAA Division I and the construction of a new Science and Technology Center.

“Community support like this is vital to the growth and wellbeing of any organization,” UNA President Dr. William G. Cale Jr. said. “UNA is very appreciative and blessed to have this type of support as we move forward to grow in incredible ways for our students and for the Shoals community.”

The UNA board of trustees voted last June to begin a six-year transition into the NCAA Division I. The board, in September 2010, approved the university to proceed with plans for the Science and Technology Center.

“Both of these are significant projects that we expect to draw new growth for the university, which will quickly translate into new economic growth for the entire Shoals area. We, as the Chamber of Commerce, are very supportive of what UNA is doing through both of these initiatives,” said Steve Holt, president of the Shoals Chamber of Commerce.

“UNA is a huge part of the Shoals economy but also a resource for our workforce. We must continue to support the growth of both their academic and athletic programs,” said Rick Sharp, Chairman, Shoals Chamber of Commerce

In recent years, universities making the transition from the NCAA Division II to Division I have experienced an average 11 percent enrollment increase during the six-year transition process that UNA began last summer. That rate of growth would bring to the Shoals economy an additional $17.6 million per year and, to UNA, an additional $6.1 million per year to help enhance the quality of academic programming and student life.

The new Science and Technology Center at UNA will house three academic departments: biology, chemistry and industrial hygiene, and physics and earth science. The facility will also provide classroom and lab space for engineering programming while serving as a regional resource for researchers and scientists in neighboring industries.

In 2010, UNA received a $6 million grant from the state of Alabama toward the facility’s construction, and the UNA board approved the issuance of up to $25,805,000 through a Build America bond. The university is also beginning an effort to raise an additional $6 million toward Science and Technology Center. The building is expected to cost about $35-40 million. The building will be constructed on N. Pine Street near Kilby Laboratory School and Flowers Hall, on the former site of the university’s facilities department.

Gifts and gift commitments toward UNA’s transition to Division I currently stand at about $400,000 annually – 80 percent of the $500,000 benchmark set by the UNA board. The $500,000 annual benchmark will come to $3 million over the six-year transition process.

“These types of commitments are absolutely vital to our success of transitioning into Division I,” said Mark Linder, UNA athletics director. “The more people who step up and demonstrate that they want to be a part of this historic moment for UNA and this community, the greater our success will be. We are fortunate to be located in the Shoals and to have so many individuals who love this university.”

Last fall, UNA formed a DI Advisory Council, with each of its 26 members committing to give or help raise at least $25,000 each toward the transition. The university also formed a Circle of Champions, with each individual giving at least $1,000 annually.