6 November 2008
Impact of the North Carolina Research Campus on Kannapolis
In the late 1800's the village of Kannapolis, North Carolina started to grow due to the presence
of the Cannon Mills Company. The village grew from an agricultural center where farms prospered, to
an industrial center in which workers commuted to work everyday to make household textiles in the
Cannon Mills Company. This “industrial” center lasted a good 100 years before it went bankrupt in the
1990s from the collapse of the textile industry in North Carolina. Fortunately for the newly created city
of Kannapolis, it was given a second chance to prosper through Mr. David Murdock, who repurchased
Cannon Mills, to build a twenty first century company named the North Carolina Research Campus
(NCRC). At the opening ceremonies of the NCRC, Mr. Murdock stated, “this campus fulfills my
lifelong dream of being able to change the world’s thoughts on nutrition and find ways to cure many of
the dreadful diseases that have affected all of us and our families. It excites me to think of the
groundbreaking research that will occur as a result of having these world class universities and
companies here working together all in one place.” Kannapolis has, is, and will continue to experience
change as it heads into the new twenty first century world of technology!
The earliest signs of the area are the Scots-Irish and Germans from Pennsylvania who bought
land from the Granville Grant between 1735 and 1750 so they could settle here (Arthur-Cornett 91).
These peoples helped found the counties of Rowan in 1753 and Cabarrus in 1792 when it separated
from Mecklenburg County. The town of Glass, North Carolina, absorbed in the 1880's, provided the
first platform for the future city of Kannapolis. Glass, located in southern Kannapolis today, was the
only trace of a town in what is now Kannapolis (Arthur-Cornett 13). While Glass was a prominent step
in getting the area started, it was not able to last due to the increasingly popular Cannon Mills. With the
purchase of 600 acres in northern Cabarrus County and 400 adjacent acres in Rowan County, James W.
Cannon was able to start the Cannon Mills Company. The area grew with the Cannon Mills Company.
The Cannon Mills Company was helped by the plentiful supply of cotton in the area which was used to
weave the company into a prosperous textile industry (Kearns 9) (See Appendix A).
This textile industry allowed for Kannapolis to stay in existence as it went into the more modern
and industrial twentieth century. Life at the textile mill stayed close to normal for the next eighty years
until Mr. David Murdock surprised the Cannon Mills Company with an offer to the management in
1982 that it could not refuse. For the first time in Cannon Mills history, the mill was owned by
someone other than the Cannon Family. Like any company, Cannon Mills and the workers were more
than emotionally anxious in the 1980s when it was sold to Mr. David Murdock. This caused a small
panic. During this frantic time, Kannapolis officially became an incorporated town on December 4,
1984 (Kearns 1). Before this date Kannapolis was the largest unincorporated town in the United States.
Unfortunately, the panic started again when Mr. Murdock sold the company to Fieldcrest in 1986. A
pending bankruptcy, from changing of ownership several times, ended the textile industry for
Kannapolis. However, Mr. Murdock brought the city into the twenty first century when he bought the
Cannon Mills Company again in 2005 to build the NCRC. With the announcement of the NCRC came
optimism of its future success. The Mayor of Kannapolis, Bob Misenheimer, feels “the North Carolina
Research Campus is a golden opportunity for all of Cabarrus County and this entire Region.”
With the layoff of about 4,300 workers in Kannapolis from the closing of the mill, on July 30,
2003, residents were forced to wait anxiously for the outcome of Mr. Murdock's plans for the mill.
Fortunately, this wait did not last long, but it came with sorrow and disappointment by the implosion of
the mill on March 24, 2006. From the death of the mill came the birth of the NCRC as it was built and
is still being built on the site of the mill (See Appendix B and C). According to an anonymous source,
without Mr. Murdock's plans for the NCRC, “the decay of the center of Kannapolis would have been
rapid and would have depressed the real estate market far beyond downtown for generations.” Since
Kannapolis is having the opportunity to thrive and prosper, it is going to have to continue to experience
change as it prepares for the creation of the NCRC (Gross 12). There are so many ways this new
campus is being felt throughout the city of Kannapolis and the surrounding area. The NCRC is being
felt through the creation of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Projects or Self-Financing Bonds, which are
being used to help reduce growing pains in the city of Kannapolis and the surrounding area. According
to the mayor, “these bonds will go for improvements that will include new intersections, parks and
water and sewer lines” (Misenheimer 1).
In order to fully understand what the city is using all our hard earned money, one must
understand what Tax Increment Financing or Self-Financing Bonds are. The North Carolina Economic
Development Association defines Self-Financing Bonds as “a method for financing public
infrastructure that leverages private investments. Increased tax revenue generated by the project pays
for the bond.” In comparison, Mr. Brown, of the law firm of Nexsen Pruet Adams Kleemeier, PLLC
defines Tax Increment Financing as “bonds that are repaid only from the incremental property taxes
resulting from the increased value of property within a specially designated development financing
district.” Now that one has the understanding necessary to fully comprehend the following paper, one
may proceed in learning about the changes the city of Kannapolis has, is, and will continue to
experience as it heads into the new twenty first century world of technology!
Even though the TIF projects are for the NCRC, Mayor Misenheimer understands that
“seventy-eight percent of the improvements will be made off the Research Campus and will benefit
existing and future residents throughout the City of Kannapolis” (Misenheimer 1). This is due to the
TIF bonds being able to be used for any project related to the NCRC, which includes off campus
projects. One of these off campus projects comes from the western entrance to the city of Kannapolis,
Mooresville Road, which will serve as one of the main entrances to the NCRC. To ease our growing
pains, the city is using Self Financing Bonds to widen Mooresville Road from two to four lanes from
Dale Earnhardt Boulevard to the new Kannapolis Parkway (“NCRC Recommended TIF Bond
Structure and Project List” 8) (See Appendix D and F). The bid date for this project is set for June 1,
2010 and is estimated to cost $5,000,000. To help reduce traffic flow on Mooresville Road, the city of
Kannapolis and Kellswater residential community have built the Rogers Lake Road Extension, which
will be used as an alternate route for drivers going to Kannapolis (NCRC Recommended TIF Bond
Structure and Project List 9). To make Kannapolis more accessible, the city of Kannapolis has built a
new piece of the Kannapolis Parkway to connect Trinity Church Road to Macedonia Church Road.
This has allowed drivers coming off Interstate 85 at exit 54 to have direct access to Kannapolis.
Crossing the five lanes of Loop Road these days is not as safe as it once was. To help reduce the
risk of injury the city of Kannapolis is taking advantage of replacing the undersized storm drainage
pipes under Loop Road to build a pedestrian tunnel from the NCRC to Village Park and to the eighth
Street Greenway (“NCRC Recommended TIF Bond Structure and Project List” 5) (See Appendix D
and E). In addition to providing a safe way to cross Loop Road, the pedestrian tunnels are providing
Kannapolis citizens, visitors, and future employees of the NCRC a way to spend some time with nature
at its parks.
Coming to a halt at a stop light and not being able to squeeze into the turn lane can be quite
dangerous. To keep up with growing pains from turn lanes that are too short, the city of Kannapolis is
making several adjustments to its major intersections.
Visitors coming from the north to the NCRC will enter the city off Interstate 85 using exit 63.
Long time residents of this area have seen considerable growth over the years due to the presence of
the Kannapolis Intimidators baseball team. With the growth expected to continue with the creation of
the NCRC making it a major entryway into the city, the need for improvements to this exit are ever so
important. Fortunately, the improvements to the Interstate 85 exit 63 interchange are not too far into the
future. With the bid date for these improvements already past and the estimated cost of the project set
for $717,350, the city of Kannapolis is hoping to be able to improve this interchange with the
construction of a dedicated right-turn lane onto Lane Street at the Interstate 85 northbound off ramp
intersection, increasing the northbound right-turn lane storage length on the Interstate 85 northbound
off ramp, and increasing the southbound right-turn lane storage length on the Interstate 85 southbound
off ramp (“NCRC Recommended TIF Bond Structure and Project List” 7) (See Appendix D and F).
One of the busiest intersections in the city is expected to be seeing a makeover in the near
future. With a bid date for improvements to be held on April 1, 2009 and an estimated price tag of
$3,447,800 the US 29/601 and Dale Earnhardt Boulevard intersection, which is known by many for its
bumps and sharp turns, will be improved with the construction of an eastbound left-turn lane on Dale
Earnhardt Boulevard, a westbound left-turn lane on Dale Earnhardt Boulevard, and increasing the
northbound left-turn lane storage length (“NCRC Recommended TIF Bond Structure and Project List”
7) (See Appendix D and F).
With Loop Road expected to be the major thoroughfare around the NCRC, the city is preparing
in advance for where it sees the greatest congestion difficulties from the coming and going of NCRC
employees. The US 29/601 and Jackson Park Road/Lane Street intersection is the first major
intersection employees will reach when leaving to the north. This intersection currently has a very
sharp steep right-turn safer by modifying the curb radii in the southwest corner in front of the Exxon
station. To reduce backup on US 29 north, the city is going to construct a northbound right-turn lane on
US 29 (See Appendix D and F). The bid date for these improvements will be October 1, 2009 and is
estimated to cost $338,300 (“NCRC Recommended TIF Bond Structure and Project List” 7).
While reducing the anticipated growth on the roads of the city is beneficial when preparing
for such a project such as the NCRC, the city has also seen a need for preparing its utilities. The city is
needing to improve its utilities for both residential water uses and in order to pass fire code inspections.
To accomplish these tasks the city of Kannapolis is undertaking several major projects to keep up with
these high demands.
With Fieldcrest Cannon internally providing potable water and fire protection along North Main
Street until it was demolished for the building of the NCRC, the city is now going to have to build its
own water main. With this step, the city will be one step closer to passing the fire code inspections and
providing public water service. The city is planning to accomplish these goals by building 2,800 linear
feet of twelve inch water main along Main Street between First Street and North Loop Road (“NCRC
Recommended TIF Bond Structure and Project List”) (See Appendix D and E).
Since the Water Treatment Plant provides water to the city through sixteen and twenty four inch
water lines that are underneath existing and proposed buildings, the city will be forced to move them
since they cannot be maintained. Another potential difficulty facing Kannapolis is if the lines were to
fail causing them to do major structural damage to the surrounding buildings. After the creation of
approximately 600 linear feet of twenty four inch water main along Dale Earnhardt Boulevard between
Vance and Chestnut Street and approximately 720 linear feet of sixteen inch water main along West
“A” and Oak Avenue the city will abandon the existing lines (NCRC Recommended TIF Bond
Structure and Project List 9) (See Appendix D and E). With the completion of these water mains, the
city will be one step closer to being able to pass the fire code inspections.
To prepare for the expected growth at the NCRC, the city of Kannapolis is replacing a thirty
inch water main, which traverses through the campus where future development of buildings will
occur. This water main could also fail causing major structural damage to the surrounding buildings.
The city will replace this water main with a new water main on eighth street, West “A”, and Loop Road
(NCRC Self Financing Bonds (“TIFs”) 9) (See Appendix D and E). This water main is expected to be
able to keep up with future water demand within Kannapolis.
While this is only a handful of projects that the city is working on to prepare Kannapolis for the
expected growth from the NCRC, it does include the many other areas the city expects to also
experience growth as Kannapolis continues to experience change as it heads into a new twenty first
When someone reflects about the future of Kannapolis, one must remember the past and ask
oneself, can the North Carolina Research Campus experience the same fate as the Fieldcrest Cannon
Mills? Most people will say “no” due to the following reasons: the Universities of North Carolina's
presence and the uniqueness of the research being conducted in the M.U.R.D.O.C.K. study. To
preserve the North Carolina Research Campus and Kannapolis for the future, Mr. Murdock has brought
together the University of North Carolina system and Duke University to make sure scientific research
will allow for the NCRC to continue staying active for the future. With the M.U.R.D.O.C.K. study's
work in personalized medicine allowing the NCRC to further its research in genetic information that is
unique to one's self. This can provide a more accurate finding about someone that could never be done
before. Unlike ordinary doctors which use trial and error methods to cure and treat patients, the
M.U.R.D.O.C.K. study will conduct genetic research on its patients to find out which drugs will and
will not work for them. This new personalized medicine will reduce the risk of side affects from drugs
and allow for shorter healing times.
To fully understand how the NCRC will be preserved for the future, one must look at the
Research Triangle Park. The RTP, which has been around since 1959, has prospered as the NCRC is
expected to (Link, “From Seed to Harvest” 3). The NCRC and the RTP both have three common
characteristics that will allow them to still exist into the future: dedicated people, outstanding
universities, and a world-class research institute.
The dedication of the citizens of North Carolina have and will continue to assist the RTP in
preserving it for the future through fund-raising and leadership. Mr. Archibald Davis, the primary
fund-raiser and leader of the park in the early years, is confident “the love of the state was the
motivation for the Research Triangle idea” (Link, “A Generosity of Spirit” 9). The dedication of the
citizens of North Carolina today will help to also preserve the NCRC for the future. Without the
dedication of the citizens of North Carolina, Mr. Murdock would not have felt supported in his desire
for the NCRC. This lack of desire could have resulted in Mr. Murdock taking his vision some place
else. Since money is not everything it also takes the dedication of the community to keep someone
interested in developing a place.
One may ask, how can a university system preserve a research campus while an incorporated
company cannot? The key to answering this question is to understand how often universities become
bankrupt. The answer is almost never. Now, how often does an incorporated company fall to the
conditions of the economy? One prime example of this becoming true would be the buyout of
Wachovia in September of 2008. Fortunately for universities, they are also extremely well funded by
the government and the private sector so it is difficult for them to go under. Through the outstanding
university system of North Carolina, the state has had the unique opportunity to see the university
system come together to preserve two research campuses. The President of the UNC System, Erskine
B. Bowles, stated at the opening ceremonies of the NCRC:
I’m immensely proud that researchers and graduate students from seven UNC campuses are
actively involved at the NC Research Campus, but what really energizes and excites me is all
the cutting-edge research and life-altering discoveries that will happen within these world-class
laboratories and facilities. With education, government, and the private sector working together
in partnership, this Research Campus has enormous potential to create new jobs and spur
economic development in our state. (“Campus Celebrates Milestone” 1-2)
While one cannot fully see the full potential of what accomplishments the Universities of North
Carolina may bring to the NCRC today, one can see evidence of this occurring at the RTP with having
three superb universities supporting it in its research findings.
The last and final strength of both the RTP and the NCRC are their pursuit in a world-class
research institute. While the core lab at the NCRC has not yet been opened, it has already earned world
wide recognition as the latest in biotechnological research. The RTP has also already achieved this
status but unlike the NCRC, it has proven this status throughout the world as it continues to achieve
new heights in medical research. With the presence of the universities at both research campuses, they
both have been able to utilize the expertise the universities offer in medical research to advance and
continue world-class research. While there is no absolute truth or proof for whether the North Carolina
Research Campus will be preserved for the future, one should be able to notice the similarities between
the Research Triangle Park and the North Carolina Research Campus.
During the past century, Kannapolis, North Carolina has seen remarkable changes, as it moved
from a farming community in the late 1800s and early 1900s, to a textile giant that lasted until it went
bankrupt in 2003, to its future in biotechnology with the creation of the North Carolina Research
Campus. While the city has never had the opportunity to experience change at such a level as what it is
experiencing with the NCRC, due to it being incorporated in 1984, it looks forward to adapting as new
challenges arise. With change comes challenges and the city is preparing for these changes with the
creation of Tax Increment Financing projects to combat some of these challenges it is and will face as
it heads into a new twenty first century world!
Arthur-Cornett, Helen. Remembering Kannapolis : Tales from Towel City. New York: History P, The,
Brown, Patrick F. North Carolina's Newest Economic Development Tool-Tax Increment Financing.
Issue briefNo. NPCHLT1:123703.1-CA-(PFB) 900000-00183. Charlotte, NC: Law firm of
Nexsen Pruet Adams Kleemeier, PLLC, 2004. 1-3.
Gross, Michael. "From Textiles to Technology." The Charlotte Observer. 23 Apr. 2008: 36-38.
Kearns, Paul R. Weavers of Dreams. Barium Springs, NC: Mullein P, 1995.
Legg, Mike. North Carolina Research Campus Recommended TIF Bond Structure and Recommended
TIF Project List. Kannapolis City Manager's Office. Kannapolis, NC: City of Kannapolis, 2007.
Legg, Mike. North Carolina Research Campus Self Financing Bonds ("TIFs"). Kannapolis City
Manager's Office. Kannapolis, NC: City of Kannapolis, 2007.
Link, Albert N. A Generosity of Spirit : The Early History of the Research Triangle Park. Detroit:
Research Triangle Foundation of North Carolina, 1995.
Link, Albert N. From Seed to Harvest : The Growth of the Research Triangle Park. Detroit: Research
Triangle Foundation of North Carolina, 2002.
Misenheimer, Bob. “Tax Increment Financing and the N. C. Research Campus.” Letter to the Cabarrus
County Commissioners. Date Unknown. Kannapolis, NC.
North Carolina Economic Development Association. Frequently Asked Questions about Self-Financing
Bonds. City of Kannapolis, Year Unknown.
North Carolina Research Campus. "CAMPUS CELEBRATES HISTORIC MILESTONE." Press
release. 20 Oct. 2008. 5 Nov. 2008 <http://www.ncresearchcampus.net/media-
Fieldcrest Cannon Plant 1
NCRC Mr. David H. Murdock Core Labatory
Perspective Drawing of Central Campus at the NCRC
City of Kannapolis TIF Project List
Changes the City of Kannapolis is Using to Prepare for the NCRC's Expected Growth
City of Kannapolis TIF Project Book
The On-Campus Map of Expected TIF Projects
City of Kannapolis TIF Project Book
Off-Campus Map of Expected TIF Projects