Research Campus on governorís radar

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 14, 2009

By Emily Ford
Advocates of the N.C. Research Campus believe they have a big supporter in North Carolinaís new governor.
Gov. Bev Perdue has visited the $1.5 billion biotechnology hub several times and, as lieutenant governor, was instrumental in David Murdockís decision to build the campus in Kannapolis.
ěShe was one of the early people that Mr. Murdock met with when he was contemplating the development of the campus,î Lynne Scott Safrit, president of campus developer Castle & Cooke North Carolina, wrote in an e-mail. ěHer enthusiasm and her encouragement were instrumental in Mr. Murdock making a substantial investment in North Carolina.î
Murdock, the billionaire owner of Dole Food Co., is developing the 350-acre biotech complex where Cannon Mills once stood.
Perdue gave a shout out to the Research Campus in her inaugural address Saturday.
ěProsperity is coming back to the old textile town of Kannapolis with the creation of a world-class biotech center that will provide thousands of jobs to our people,î she said.
She cited the Research Campus as one of the engines that will help rebuild the stateís economy.
ěShe has it on her radar screen,î said Mike Legg, Kannapolis city manager. ěHaving your figurehead and the leader of state of North Carolina as a supporter is significant.î
A former educator, Perdue said in her inaugural address that overseeing the North Carolina education system will be the ěmost important role I will have as governor.î
The Research Campus, where seven public universities already have branches and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College will have a major presence, relies on more than $20 million in state funding each year for salaries and rent.
The governor can influence the state budget passed by the General Assembly.
Education will be the key that unlocks the potential for the Research Campus, Legg said.
Perdue ěhas a background in education and thatís important to her and has a really good tie-in with the campus,î he said. ěSupport for the community college and the universities is going to be critical.î
Perdue has always supported biotechnology and life sciences and has championed better health and nutrition, Safrit said.
ěWe have great opportunity to move North Carolina into greater prominence in biotechnology from a global perspective,î Safrit wrote. ěI think Governor Perdue will be a strong force in moving the state ahead in this area.î
Perdue delivered a stump speech last fall at the Charlotte Biotechnology Conference, where she sold herself as the ěbiotech governorî and said the stateís new economy would be rooted in knowledge and innovation.
North Carolina is the nationís third leading state for biotechnology, trailing only California and Massachusetts in the number of biotechnology companies.
ěI want to tell New England and the Terminator that North Carolina is coming,î Perdue said. ěI want to be No. 1.î