Kannapolis gets Southeast’s first USDA Human Nutrition Center
By Emily Ford
KANNAPOLIS ó The N.C. Research Campus has landed a USDA Human Nutrition Center, the first of its kind in the Southeast.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture could hire as many as 150 people for the nutrition center, which cleared a final hurdle Wednesday when President Barack Obama signed the 2010 Agricultural Appropriations Bill.
The new law includes $1 million to establish the center at the Research Campus, a life sciences complex in downtown Kannapolis.
Federal scientists will collaborate with university researchers at the campus to study nutrition and agriculture at the molecular level, “groundbreaking research that will make our communities healthier,” U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell, a Democrat whose district includes Kannapolis, said in a statement.
“This research can help us to better understand exactly how nutrition impacts our health, as well as bring new jobs to our area,” said Kissell, who first requested the earmark to establish the center.
The USDA will move into the David H. Murdock Core Laboratory Building, centerpiece of the $1.5 billion campus.
The addition of the USDA is a “benchmark in fulfilling the mission of the campus to transform nutrition, agriculture and human health to benefit mankind,” Murdock said in a statement.
Murdock owns Dole Food Co. and campus developer Castle & Cooke.
The Research Campus has long pursued a federal presence in Kannapolis, which will provide a key recruiting tool for developers and could attract hundreds of additional jobs as businesses look for opportunities to work with the federal government.
The $1 million is seed money to open the center, hiring several scientists and support staff. If successful, the center eventually could have an annual budget of $25 million.
Kannapolis will become the seventh city in the nation to have a USDA nutrition center.
A large contingent of North Carolina lawmakers worked to shepherd the earmark through Congress, including Kissell, Sen. Richard Burr, Sen. Kay Hagan, Rep. Howard Coble and Rep. Mel Watt.
Kissell said he was told earlier this year that the appropriation wouldn’t be possible. He thanked North Carolina’s senators for helping to secure funding for the project.
The center will focus on cutting-edge research into how improved nutrition can impact human health on an individual basis. Scientists will work to develop customized solutions that target individual response to diet and nutrition and will conduct research into the development of healthier agricultural products.
“The center will provide a natural complement to the types of research underway at the NCRC and will further our goal of fostering multi-institutional collaboration,” Lynne Scott Safrit, president of Castle & Cooke North Carolina, said in a statement.
The University of North Carolina Nutrition Research Institute and the N.C. State University Plants for Human Health Institute will collaborate with the USDA to develop the center.