Billionaire David Murdock and Molly Broad, president of the University of North Carolina system, unveiled plans for a massive 350-acre project designed to bring jobs and economic development to this city that has been devastated by the loss of textile-related jobs.

The North Carolina Research Campus will include educational and research facilities as well as space for as many as 100 biotechnology companies.

Murdock, who owns Dole Food Company and real estate development firm Castle & Cooke, hatched plans for what he called a “biopolis” earlier this year.

The kickoff for the campus drew a wide variety of state and local leaders, including Governor Mike Easley and both of North Carolina’s US Senators, Elizabeth Dole who is from nearby Salisbury, and Richard Burr.

“We cannot overstate the significance of the University’s embarking -in partnership with Dole and David Murdock – on a project of this magnitude, scale, and potential,” Broad said. “This initiative advances our three-part mission of teaching, research, and public service – and in the process gives new meaning to the terms ‘collaborative’ and ‘multi-disciplinary.’

“It underscores our commitment to foster statewide economic development and technology transfer – and demonstrates a new level of our commitment to serve the needs of the entire state. This project will serve as a national model for what can happen when private enterprise, higher education, and state government partner to affect positive change for the future,” she added.

Murdock pledged $100 million of his own money to support the project. He also owns the site of the former Cannon Mills plant that covers 250 acres and will serve as part of the site for the new project. Murdock also owns 100 additional acres around Kannapolis and 1,000 acres in Cabarrus and Rowan Counties.

“The receptiveness of all of our state leaders and their guidance and commitment to strengthening the economic viability of our state has been very gratifying to me as I have worked on this project over the past seven months,” Murdock said.

“The most exciting part of this project is to be able to create sustainable, better-paying jobs for the people of Kannapolis and the region, and the creation of this scientific community centered on biotechnology will allow a transformation of this economy from a manufacturing-based one to one centered on scientific knowledge and research,” he added. “Through the collaboration of the university scientists, the biotechnology research, and the state-of-the-art laboratories, new discoveries will be made that will further my goal of teaching people about proper health, nutrition, and wellness.”

Murdock has already forged a partnership with the UNC System, including UNC-Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte for the location of facilities at the campus. He also is in negotiations with Duke University to become part of the site.

Plans call for the North Carolina Research Campus to include more than one million square feet of office and laboratory space, 350,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, and some 700 residential units.