Three years in the making, the North Carolina Research Campus debuted Monday in Kannapolis.
The $1.5 billion project, driven by developer-billionaire David Murdock, has transformed the former Pillowtex mill complex, which closed in 2003 in Kannapolis and threatened that area with a massive economic tailspin.
Murdock, owner of Dole Food, swept in with a big idea: A research campus mixing private industry with not just a single university's research engine - like N.C. State's Centennial Campus or, perhaps, the eventual Carolina North project in Chapel Hill - but an accumulation of brainiacs from universities across the state.
Sixteen private businesses, eight North Carolina universities and the state's community college system jumped on board. Our local universities are well represented, as UNC-CH, Duke, NCCU and N.C. State all have research programs running or in the works on the campus.
This venture is no joke. Murdock is picking up a lot of the tab, but so are you and I. There is about $47 million in public money committed to the project.
The Charlotte Observer has a nice look at the project here.
One snippet on the economic viablility of translating research to the market:
"Biotech is a dicey venture. It can take a decade or longer - and hundreds of millions of dollars - just to get one product to market, with no guarantee of success. An industry that requires risk-takers for investing in new ideas is especially vulnerable to a turbulent market."