Leadership Rowan tours N.C. Research Campus

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Emily Ford
KANNAPOLIS ó Until Thursday, Tony Hilton was somewhat skeptical about the N.C. Research Campus.
Then he toured it.
“I had some misgivings,” said Hilton, a student in the Leadership Rowan program. “I’m a believer now.”
Leadership Rowan toured the Core Laboratory Building just in time. The campus will eliminate public tours after the Core Lab officially opens Oct. 20. Scientists hope to begin research in earnest by Thanksgiving.
Hilton, who works for Rowan County and sits on the Landis town board, said he was impressed with the planning that has gone into the Research Campus, a public-private biotechnology hub where 10 universities will collaborate to improve human health and nutrition.
The campus already has had a positive economic impact in northern Cabarrus County and southern Rowan County, he said.
Most of the 575 luxury homes planned for the Club at Irish Creek, formerly the Kannapolis Country Club, will be in Landis. The first homes are under construction, and Landis will reap the tax benefits, Hilton said
“Not only is there a promise of cutting-edge research, but also a tangible benefit for the community,” he said.
Tyler Holden, who works for First Bank, graduated from Leadership Rowan last year and planned Thursday’s tour of the Research Campus. Earlier in the day, the group went through diversity training led by Dr. Cynthia Osterhus of Catawba College, which Holden said was appropriate considering that the Research Campus will draw people from around the world.
“We’re going to have to learn how to get along and work together,” Holden said. “The campus will have such a big impact on this area.”
Herman Felton, who works for Livingstone College, has lived in Salisbury for 15 months. He never saw Pillowtex, the huge textile mill that closed in 2003, forcing more than 4,000 people out of work. Pillowtex was later demolished to make room for the Research Campus.
As he toured the campus with Leadership Rowan, Felton said he thought about the textile legacy in Kannapolis and what a blow the town suffered when the mill closed.
“I thought about how the Research Campus would revitalize that area,” he said.
Leaders say the campus will create more than 30,000 jobs in the next decade, including ancillary employment like law firms, moving companies and restaurants.
Felton said he believes the campus can live up to both its claims ó research and economic.
“I can’t help but believe in what Mr. Murdock has done,” he said. “To see the campus is really to see the beginning of something huge that will have an impact on us and the globe.”
Dole Food Co. owner David Murdock, who owned the textile mill in the 1980s and bought back the abandoned plant in 2004, will spend about $1 billion of his personal fortune developing the campus. His firm Castle & Cooke North Carolina is the developer.
As the presumed future leaders of Rowan County, the Leadership Rowan students said Salisbury and Rowan are ready for the changes and growth the Research Campus will bring.
“We’re in the 21st century. It’s not ever going to be 1957 again,” Hilton said. “People need to move ahead and accept change and benefit from it. This is going to be a great melting pot.”