Buncombe County’s HUB Alliance served up its latest initiative, the “Rejuvenation Cluster,” at its Oct. 16 meeting, which took place in Asheville’s Public Works Building.
The HUB project describes itself as “a nonprofit, independent catalyst that is unifying community leaders and citizens around strategies for leveraging Asheville’s competitive assets and improving the region around it.” The meeting showcased the area’s possibilities for cashing in on health and wellness.
Alliance members took in an overview of former HUB consultant Dan Ray‘s proposal to peddle the region’s mainstream, complementary and alternative-health businesses and initiatives in conjunction with the area’s natural beauty.
“The Rejuvenation Cluster is where HandMade in America was 10 years ago,” Executive Committee President Janice Brumit commented. Hand Made, an Asheville-based nonprofit, has successfully marketed regional crafts.
Lourdes Lorenz of Mission Hospitals outlined recent growth in spending on alternative and complementary medicine. She reported that visits to alternative practitioners now outnumber those to primary-care physicians nationally and pointed out that the billions in consumer spending on alternative care are almost entirely out-of-pocket, whereas mainstream medicine is often funded through insurance. A cooperative approach between all practitioners could result in larger expenditure of discretionary health dollars here, she suggested.
Keith Ray of UNCA described the university’s plans to break ground on its state-funded, $45 million N.C. Center for Health and Wellness next spring. He said that health and wellness is the university’s fastest growing academic discipline.
Teck Penland of Mountain Area Health Education Center reported on receiving $10 million from the state to help build a new campus near Biltmore Forest to focus on aging and wellness. He outlined possible collaboration between MAHEC, UNCA and Western Carolina University on matters ranging from health-information services to natural remedies to alternative treatments. When a participant called out, “Why is Western involved?” UNCA Chancellor Anne Ponder drew peals of laughter with her response: “Because they have the money.”
Jack Cecil, a member of the Board of Governors of the North Carolina Arboretum, reported that the Bent Creek Institute, a research center based at the North Carolina Arboretum, has already raised about $1.2 million to study native plants as potential cures and for use in biotechnology research.
Alliance members took questions after the presentations. Xpress asked why, given that so much funding for wellness-related initiatives already appeared to be in hand, HUB had recently requested an additional $800,000 from Buncombe County (which had previously provided $275,000 for the HUB project).
“What this group aims to do is to be a catalyst to get organizations that haven’t been working together to do so,” Brumit answered. “To be able to keep this group together, to keep talking together, we need funding.”
HUB Alliance Treasurer Mack Pearsall also offered an answer: “Day Ray said in a fit of enthusiasm that we won’t need money, but as we’re moving from the discussion stage to the implementation phase, it’s time to bring money to the table.” He added: “Our consultant has said that $800,000 is what it’s going to take to figure out what the possibilities are.”
Mission Hospitals President and CEO Joe Damore chimed in too: “If it brings hundreds of millions into the community, the investment will be insignificant.”