CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The North Carolina Biotechnology Center’s greater Charlotte office will be located in the Charlotte Research Institute (CRI) on the campus of UNC Charlotte.

It is the Center’s fifth and final regional office; others that have been opened since 2003 are a Western office in Asheville, a Piedmont Triad office in Winston-Salem, an Eastern office in Greenville, and a Southeastern office in Wilmington. All have the same goal: creating biotechnology companies and the high-paying jobs they bring.

The Greater Charlotte office will be formally dedicated on Oct. 10 in conjunction with the Biotech Center’s board of directors meeting, which will be held in Charlotte for the first time.

“The Center will be a very good partner,” said CRI Executive Director Bob Wilhelm. “It’s all about research, education and economic development.”

W. Steven Burke, the Biotech Center’s senior vice president for corporate affairs, met with stakeholders throughout the region over the last several months to help select a location. He cited three main reasons for choosing CRI, which now encompasses two buildings on the UNCC campus, with a third to begin construction soon.

“First, UNCC is a manifest leader in the region for thinking about community-directed technology development, and, as such, it is the best kind of partner for the Center, ” Burke said. “And CRI is beautifully positioned in terms of respect, its own partnerships, and its geographic location in the middle of Greater Charlotte and in the middle of its growing web of technology development.”

The UNCC campus is less than 20 miles from the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis, where billionaire David Murdock is building what he — and others in North Carolina — hope will become one of the top biotech centers in the world. It could eventually be home for as many as 100 biotech firms. A 311,000-square-foot core lab building is now being built.

The third reason CRI was chosen, Burke said, is that “Bob Wilhelm s a clever and collegial thinker about community-directed technology development.”

The Greater Charlotte office will be staffed by a director and an assistant who will work to strengthen the region’s biotechnology research, business, education and workforce training, plus help institutions, schools and agencies in the region identify area needs, goals, and niche capabilities. Burke said the Center is in the process of hiring a director for the office. There is no timetable for the hiring, but Burke expects it will be well before the office opens in October. A regional advisory committee, which will guide biotech development, will be named about six months after the director begins work.

“It’s a non-standard kind of job,” Burke said. “The director needs to understand simultaneously the reality of biotech development and long-term community development. If you do the former, you gain the latter.”

The Charlotte area is currently home to 29 of the state’s 730 biotech firms, which gives North Carolina the third largest biotech industry in the U.S., behind California and Massachusetts.

According to Burke, the region has many strengths to help it develop a vibrant biotech industry, and that the most important one is its “will to get on it and do well by biotech.” For example, he added, “A growing number of institutions in the area have learned about our office and are as responsive as they can be. The community is alert, prepared and pleased.”

Observed Bob Morgan, president of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, “This office and the Kannapolis facility puts us in the biotech game — we weren’t before. The office brings resources here we didn’t have before and helps our companies make linkages. It also gives us something tangible to sell to biotech companies looking to locate or expand here.”

In the Chamber’s strategic economic development agenda, Advantage Carolina, which was updated last year, biotech was identified as an early emerging industry cluster. As a result, the Chamber works with CRI in a variety of ways in all areas of technology-related economic development. “We are side by side already, closely joined at the hip,” Morgan quipped.

Laura Mundell, economic program director of the Centralina Council of Governments in Charlotte which provides staff support to a regional biotech and bioinformatics network, also was pleased by the Biotech Center’s announcement.

“We’re thrilled to have a Biotechnology Center office here. It’ll be a great asset for the region,” she said. “We’ll see what plans the director has and work with the staff — the point is to work collectively.”

N.C. Biotech Center: