Company’s Kannapolis plans on hold: PPD’s creation of 300 Research Campus jobs evaporates
By Emily Ford
KANNAPOLIS ó A major tenant playing a key role in the business strategy at the N.C. Research Campus has left.
Pharmaceutical Product Development Inc. has terminated both its short-term lease for temporary office space in Cannon Village and a long-term lease for 40,000 square feet in a long-delayed medical building, a company spokeswoman said.
Wilmington-based PPD had planned to create up to 300 jobs at the Research Campus in the next three years.
“Progress in developing, constructing and recruiting tenants to the North Carolina Research Campus has been much slower than we expected,” Sue Ann Pentecost, PPD corporate communications manager, said in an e-mail. “We understand this is the result of the economic conditions and the global financial crisis.”
Despite the company’s departure, a campus official remained positive about PPD’s relationship with the $1.5 billion life sciences complex in downtown Kannapolis.
“Yes, PPD closed their ‘temporary’ space but we remain excited about PPD continuing their partnership with the campus into the future,” Clyde Higgs, vice president for business development for campus developer Castle & Cooke North Carolina said in an e-mail.
However, Pentecost said PPD will no longer occupy a large portion of the Medical Office Building it was supposed to share with Carolinas HealthCare System. Developers have not been able to secure financing for the project on Dale Earnhardt Boulevard at the site of the old Curb Motorsports Museum.
“Construction of the building we intended to lease has not commenced. As a result, we elected to terminate our lease,” Pentecost said. “Despite this development, we have informed NCRC that we would like to continue to work closely with them to evaluate ways in which we can participate in the campus.”
When campus founder David Murdock announced his partnership with PPD in April 2008, Higgs called the company a “significant, strategic tenant” and said the agreement was a “coup.”
A contract research organization that helps other companies develop and test new drugs and medical devices, PPD was supposed to be a recruiting tool for the campus.
In another setback, Murdock told the Post last month plans with future tenant PepsiCo are “in flux.”
Developers hoped that PPD would help them land a big-name drug maker as a tenant. The company has offices in dozens of countries and clients like drug makers Merck and Pfizer.
PPD was expected to collaborate with some of the eight universities on the Research Campus, as well as other private partners like Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute.
Collaborations are still possible, Pentecost said.
“Regarding future collaborations, PPD has the capability to provide a broad range of clinical research services across our global locations,” she said. “Depending on the nature of the collaboration, we will utilize our global resources and operations as needed.”
Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, which recently broke ground on a building at the Research Campus and launched two biotech degree programs, anticipated training workers for PPD.
Jeanie Moore, RCCC vice president for continuing education, said she is disappointed by the company’s departure but urged patience. “The initial buildings developed so quickly that we thought everything else planned at the NCRC would follow suit,” Moore said in an e-mail.
Even without PPD, the campus will create clinical research jobs, she said. The college recently heard from an employer who identified two potential candidates for clinical research positions related to the Research Campus.
“We are all impatient to see a plethora of research-related jobs at the campus, and the slowdown has been frustrating,” she said. “However, with our classroom building under construction and the continued commitment evidenced by the university partners, there are still positive signs for economic recovery for our area.”
The college will use the “lag time” to ensure that it provides as many options as possible for residents to benefit from the jobs that will eventually come, Moore said.
“The project still represents opportunity for our region,” she said.
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