"This is not the work of one man.” – Billionaire David Murdock

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — How often do dreams – especially those with a price tag of $1.5 billion – become reality?

On a sun-drenched morning Monday in Kannapolis, the North Carolina Research Campus “dream” of billionaire David Murdock took three major steps toward reality as the “Core Lab” and two buildings to house researchers from colleges and universities across the state formally opened for business.

Yes, on the site where one of the world’s largest textile plants had gone bankrupt and been destroyed – a symbol of North Carolina’s past – hundreds of guests gathered to help Murdock open the Core Lab’s doors. The NCRC, which will cost at least $1.5 billion and cover 350 acres, now represents an example of what our state’s future could be as the transition continues from textile, tobacco and manufacturing to high-tech, biotech and life sciences.

"This is not the work of one man," Murdock told the crowd.

True enough, but the NCRC needed one man’s vision, drive, tenacity and, yes, wealth, in order to become reality/

When he hatched the idea three years ago about a “biopolis” in Kannapolis of all places, more than a few people were skeptical about his chances. But Murdock tenaciously fought to get the project approved, then lined up partners such as the University of North Carolina system, Duke University, N.C. State University, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Charlotte and many others. He lobbied for support from local and state governments.

Murdock, a real estate mogul, developer and owner of Dole Food, also went after free-enterprise partners. On Monday, PepsiCo became the latest to join the project, announcing a commitment to establish a research facility on campus.

Several other firms preceded PepsiCo – Red Hat, Pharmaceutical Product Development, LabCorp and several others. More are likely to join.

Nutrition and life-science research will be the focus of the campus. Thousands of jobs will be created, assuming the world’s economy doesn’t tumble into a bottomless pit.

Murdock the businessman certainly recognizes the fact that the economy will affect what happens at the NCRC.

“Good times often come only after much sacrifice and struggle,” Murdock cautioned, “and we will have some of that here, too.”

But for one wonderful day in October 2008, no one dwelled on thoughts of downturn. They focused on the future and how Murdock’s dream might make it better for all of us.