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Kannapolis receives economic excellence award

By Emily Ford
eford@salisburypost.com
KANNAPOLIS ó The federal government recognized Kannapolis this week for not giving up after the demise of its main industry.
Kannapolis was one of seven cities in the nation to receive a 2009 Excellence in Economic Development Award for Excellence in Economic Diversification Strategies.
Sandi Walters, chief financial officer for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, presented the award Tuesday at the Cabarrus Regional Partnership meeting.
Mayor Bob Misenheimer said he was honored to accept the framed certificate on behalf of the city.
“I don’t think many people realize how prestigious this award is,” Misenheimer said.
The award recognizes the city’s commitment to research-based, market-driven economic development in helping improve the local economy.
The city’s entry highlighted its transformation from a former mill town to a research community, and detailed its effort to revitalize the downtown area after the largest employer shut down and more than 4,500 residents were out of work.
“The demise of Pillowtex was a pretty dramatic time for us,” Misenheimer said.
Even before David Murdock, billionaire owner of Dole Food Co., bought the shuttered textile mill and created the N.C. Research Campus, city leaders were working to revitalize Kannapolis, Misenheimer said.
A business park, water and sewer improvements and a bold economic development strategy were underway when Murdock offered to partner with the city on the $1.5 billion research campus, said John Cox, president of the Cabarrus Regional Partnership.
“They were already, on their own, doing the best they could to repair that economy,” Cox said.
After the devastating loss of the city’s manufacturing base, Kannapolis leaders could have given up but refused, he said.
Cox will describe how Kannapolis and Cabarrus County are dealing successfully with the loss of several major manufacturers when he addresses the International Economic Development Council in October in Reno, Nev.
The council invited Cox to speak at the conference, which will include about 1,300 economic developers from across the globe.
His presentation, titled “When the factory closes: Survival strategies for small communities,” will detail the Kannapolis story.
In receiving the economic development award this week, the city was singled out for transforming pre-K to 12th grade education, expanding opportunities for higher education, embracing diversity and building an entrepreneurial culture.
The seven national winners were selected by a panel appointed by the Assistant Commerce Secretary for Economic Development.
Entries were judged on criteria including market-based results; strong organizational leadership; advances in productivity, innovation and entrepreneurship; anticipation of future economic changes and diversification of local and regional economy; and a high degree of commitment.

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