Metrowest Daily News - Eastern promise: Chinese company opens American education base in Marlborough

Metrowest Daily News - Eastern promise: Chinese company opens American education base in Marlborough

By Paul Crocetti/Daily News staff

The city's newest school has a distinctly foreign flavor.

Local, state and international officials yesterday celebrated the opening of a Chinese company's research and education facility on Locke Drive.

Cernet, the China Education and Research Network, plans to use the 280 Locke Drive building for technology research, business training and university preparation. A Cernet subsidiary purchased the former Verizon training facility last month for $9.07 million from GHP Office Purchasing of White Plains, N.Y.

"I'm looking forward to working with everyone here to make the Cernet Education Research Massachusetts Base a success," Jianping Wu, the Cernet CEO, told the group of city councilors, state legislators, School Committee members and other officials.

A group of professors from Beijing's Tsinghua University developed Cernet, one of the largest Internet service providers in China. The University of Massachusetts has a partnership with Cernet to provide online courses to students in China for credit.

Cernet had also looked at California, Texas and New York as possibilities for its new American base. The company's partnership with UMass was one of the reasons it chose Massachusetts, officials said yesterday.

"UMass plans to be a strong partner," said Jack Wilson, the university's president.

The Massachusetts International Academy, housed in the building, will provide a program of English language and culture for Chinese students preparing for American universities.

Marcellette Williams, a senior vice president at UMass, expects that many of the Chinese students will go on to attend the state university.

Students will arrive from China in September, said Brenda Finn, the academic director of the Massachusetts International Academy. Officials expect about 60 students in the first year and hope for increased enrollments in the future.

The base's campus sits on 25 acres and includes 223 hotel rooms, an auditorium, conference rooms, a laundry room, a cafeteria, a fitness room and a swimming pool.

The property is unique, Mayor Nancy Stevens said.

"I'm so excited to have this project in this community," Stevens said. "We're so glad you found our gem."

The site will help set the table for job creation and economic development, said George Ramirez, of the state's Office of Housing and Economic Development.

"Marlborough is a great place to do business," Ramirez said.

State Rep. Danielle Gregoire, D-Marlborough, said she is glad to see the facility put to good use.

"It's a hidden gem in Marlborough," Gregoire said.

The Patrick administration worked hard to attract the company here, said state Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton.

"This is the first overseas office for this company," Eldridge said. "That's very significant."

Date: 3/30/09

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