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Community Profile

Bullish on Durham

Already known as a medical center,
the home of RTP adds pharmaceuticals
to a burgeoning economic base

By Ned Cline

Photo by Renee Wright

Durham public officials held a $21 million breakfast involving 800 workers a few months ago. But wait, before you get indignant over what might be perceived as yet another sign of governmental extravagance. That was not the cost of the meal. It was one more sign of the economic progress that seems to keep coming Durham County’s way.  The $21 million figure represents the private investment in a single new business opportunity. The 800 workers represent the number of new employees the company will add to its private sector workforce. Durham has been blessed with the kind of economic progress that many other communities seek but few achieve. As the event showed, economic prosperity is alive and well in Durham.

Designed to discuss the state of the local economy, the breakfast also served as the official announcement of the arrival of Silver Line, a vinyl window manufacturer that will add millions of dollars and hundreds of workers to the local economy. The city and county made many such announcements during 2004.

Durham’s economy ranks up there with Duke University’s basketball team in victories. The economic foundation in Durham may actually have more depth than the athletic team, which has a strong starting five but a shallow bench. The county’s economic developers have produced breadth and depth.

As many regions of North Carolina struggle with job losses from slumping industries, Durham has been able to leap over that hurdle even though the tobacco manufacturing that once was the linchpin of the local economy evaporated. As the residue of faltering tobacco markets faded, new leadership and a little luck have offset the losses.

Investments of $748 Million

The leadership came from the diligence and determination of business, civic and elected representatives who act positively toward realizing Durham’s potential despite temporary setbacks. Luck was a partner because these leaders could lean on the strength of the Research Triangle Park and institutions of higher learning. Few communities have such backup strengths available.

At the heart of these successes is the effort put forth by the Durham Chamber of Commerce and its economic staff. New dollars and jobs represent only one aspect of the success, reflecting the transition away from an economy once dominated by cigarette production.

In 2004 alone, the chamber’s team effort produced 33 new or expanded business projects and more than 2,700 new jobs once they’re on line. These projects represent $748 million in economic investments, an enviable one-year record in any community’s ledger.

Many of the new jobs are in fields tied to higher paying technology and medicine. But the diversity of jobs also has been a major plus. While some former tobacco factory workers have been retrained to work in biotech research and pharmaceutical companies, others learned to produce auto transmissions or window frames.

Another good sign is that most of the new companies are buying land and constructing buildings, meaning they plan to be here for the long haul. “When you invest in 250 acres and put up a building, you plan to stay,” Tom White, then chamber president, noted.

White is considering a career change after more than 25 years with the chamber, most recently as president, but numerous business leaders are encouraging him to remain in his current job.

The many successes haven’t always been easy. Durham still has multiple challenges ahead. More than 30 local companies downsized, merged or closed in the last few years, and the city still has one of the highest poverty rates of any major municipality in the state.

Even with the loss of jobs, however, the county has more people in the work force today than ever before. Unemployment is among the lowest in the state at just over 3 percent and renewed efforts are underway to reduce levels of poverty and substandard housing. Success in this area is evident and expanding.

Making a Name in Pharmaceuticals

Durham, with its RTP, neighboring universities and reputation for quality workers, clearly appeals to companies looking for new locations or expansion. Pharmaceutical giant Merck is a prime example.

Merck chose Durham for a new $300 million plant that would employ 200 workers. State economic incentives helped sway the decision, but Merck selected Durham over 135 other cities in 16 states, including Charlotte and Atlanta.

A few years earlier, Japanese company AisinAW searched over 276 possible sites in 100 communities before deciding on Durham for its Toyota Camry transmission component plant with an investment of $160 million and 450 jobs. Many communities offered some of what Durham did, but Durham had a distinct edge in its ability to train workers and its location next door to top-flight universities and research facilities. 

“We’ve tried to work with existing companies in need of expansion as well as new companies,” White says. “Durham has become a very popular locale for high tech and pharmaceutical companies as well as foreign companies.”

A major inducement for business expansions is the presence of the Research Triangle Park, which includes the cutting edge N.C. Biotechnology Center. North Carolina is now third in the nation behind California and Massachusetts in biotech companies, and Durham County is a cornerstone of that new industry. Three top universities (Carolina, Duke and N. C. Central) all within minutes of downtown, add to the inducements for companies looking for intelligent, skilled and well-trained workers.

Among the chamber’s partners in economic development and business recruitment is Durham Technical Community College. The school serves some 22,000 students each year through 75 different course offerings, career training and university transfers. A fourth of the students choose health technologies as a career.

In addition to academic enhancements and job training, Durham Tech adds almost $17 million a year to the local economy through direct faculty and staff wages for its 739 employees.

“Durham Tech benefits from an outstanding working relationship with economic developers and other staff at the Durham Chamber of Commerce,” college President Dr. Phail Wynn Jr. says. “Our college has long maintained a standing open door invitation for chamber leaders to bring prospective business owners and human resource managers to our campus to consider training for their employees. Those of us who work in community colleges each day are quite familiar with how an affordable education transforms lives.”

Basketball and Business Success

The Durham Chamber’s economic development approach is not unlike that of Duke’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski whose success has become a habit. Preparation and knowledge are keys to both basketball and business success.

 “We try to be prepared and know our own strengths that will appeal to companies and then deliver,” says Ted Conner, chamber vice president of economic development. “We try to serve in ways that will help companies turn out the highest production and make the most profit. Service to customers is important, but we’re not standing still and are always looking ahead and staying prepared.

“Companies need to know and understand what we have here. Our successes are in part because of partnerships between public and private sectors. Silver Line is here because we had the buildings. We hope companies know our workers are well trained.”

Durham has a regional workforce draw beyond its borders. There are some 130,000 willing workers residing in the county and another 36,000 come from neighboring communities to provide a total workforce of 166,000 every day. Conner and his associate Chuck White receive plaudits from local officials for their recruitment.

Conner and White pass the credit around to a series of enterprising business leaders as well as cooperation of the area universities and the community college offering worker retraining.

Conner is candid enough to not make it appear all is well or as perfect as it could be. “We are changing, but change is not easy and life here isn’t what we want it to be for everyone,” he says. “A segment of our population is not sharing in the prosperity and we need to do a better job with that.” Conner is referring to the high percentage of economically deprived and low skilled African American county residents.

NCCBI members who have watched the Durham economy closely over time point to the changes and the successes that continue to mount, even with the challenges.

“It’s hard to separate the city and county when it comes to economic development,” says Barry Eveland, retiring senior state executive for IBM and 2004-05 NCCBI board chair. “The whole area is in a period of growth again. Skill development and education, both critical, are improving. The reputation of the Research Triangle Park is world renowned and more firmly entrenched than ever.”

Smedes York, a Raleigh resident with business interests across the region, gives Durham thumbs up over his own hometown. “The people in Durham are taking a lot of initiative, more than Raleigh,” he says. “The leaders in Durham are active participants in revitalization of their downtown and are key players in the new technology and new economy. The city has transformed itself to become a major factor in the region’s economic growth.”

Downtown Comes Alive

SunTrust Banks Inc. of Atlanta recently purchased established Central Carolina Bank, founded in Durham and a major player in the area’s economic development for decades. While in some ways disturbing as all such takeovers are, this transformation has been relatively smooth. While some shifting of jobs likely will occur, there is no overlap between CCB and SunTrust customer bases, so consumers are not likely to see much change. The biggest visible difference may well be that SunTrust will replace the landmark CCB sign on its downtown office building.

“Our future is still very bright,” commented Richard Furr, the bank’s local president, referring to the community and the bank. “We have made significant progress even though there is a lot still to be done. Our real strength is in our people.”

Durham’s fast-growing retail and service sector has helped the economic springboard, as have the expanding biotech and health-related companies in the outlying areas. But one of the brightest spots in the local economy is the downtown area. Downtown Durham is humming like a finely tuned engine through a series of joint public/private partnerships.

The centerpiece of that engine is the American Tobacco Historic District that emerged from the entrepreneurial spirit of Raleigh broadcast executive and civic leader Jim Goodmon. His investment in the former American Tobacco Co. buildings has been impressive and ongoing for the last five years. Goodmon’s project is larger and more elaborate than others but just one of many.

Goodmon’s financial interest in downtown Durham started in the early 1990s when he purchased the Durham Bulls minor league baseball team. His love of history and his interest in helping downtown Durham rebuild its once thriving but more recently lethargic center city is responsible for much of what has been happening there since his project began.

Goodmon’s efforts represent investments of some $130 million in refurbishing the old American Tobacco Co. headquarters into office, entertainment and residential use. The private investment was supplemented by $30 million in contributions by the city and county governments for parking garages and infrastructure in the blocks around the tobacco warehouses.

The city’s new baseball park is adjacent to the new office complex where more than one million square feet of space is available for private use while being developed in multiple phases. Major tenants in the American Tobacco facilities are Duke University, GlaxoSmithKline, Compuware and McKinney Public Relations.                                                           

Goodmon is preserving the tobacco company’s history while at the same time making it an appealing location for new residents and offices. A preserved sign on one building from long ago advertises a businessman’s lunch for 15 cents. Good-mon restored physical parts of the buildings, some which date back more than 100 years. Newer is the entertainment stage for family gatherings at the foot of the restored company water tower and the man-made river — aptly named Old Bull after the city’s once-popular Bull City tobacco label — which runs through the complex.                                                                   GlaxoSmithKline building in the RTP.

There was local opposition to the new ball park (the old park several blocks away was made famous in the movie “Bull Durham”), but no public opposition to what Goodmon is doing with the once bustling but more recently vacant tobacco buildings.

“Everybody seems to want it to be saved and restored,” says Peter Anlyan, general manager of the restoration project. “We wanted to have something special here.”

Life After Tobacco

Like many who grew up in Durham, Anlyan was troubled when American Tobacco closed its doors, along with other factories in or near downtown. “Many of us felt like some of the heart of the city was taken out when the plants closed,” he says. “We feel like this project helps restore the history and the culture of the town, preserving the old and creating the new. What we have found is that when companies see what we have, they want to be here.”

The first in a series of refurbished vacant tobacco facilities near downtown was completed several years ago. Developers turned them into appealing places for shopping and dining in what is now Brightleaf Square. Terry Sanford Jr., son of the former governor, U.S. senator and Duke University president, was a leader in that project.

The old Liggett tobacco production property is undergoing a rebirth in a venture capital project that will add $36 million in downtown investments. One of the partners in that effort is Christian Laettner, the former Duke basketball star, who has appropriately named the project Blue Devil Ventures.

Bill Kalkhof, who leads Downtown Durham Inc., sports the enthusiasm of a kid who just got his first courtside ticket at Duke’s Cameron Stadium when he lists the many downtown projects underway or planned. That organization represents some dozen blocks of downtown property and was formed a decade ago with an initial $450,000 investment split between public and private partners.

Property values have grown by more than 100 percent in downtown since 1993. With the American Tobacco project as catalyst, 16 properties have been sold since it was started.

“We have a very bright future,” Kalkhof says of downtown. “The only way for us to fail is for the community to just quit, and that’s not happening.”

When Downtown Durham Inc. formed, there were fewer than 5,000 people working in that immediate area. Today there are more than 13,000. In the same time period, the number of families living downtown climbed from 100 to more than 360.

In addition to refurbished buildings and more people living and working downtown, other new projects are on the agenda. A $400,000 gift from Central Carolina Bank (now SunTrust) funds a new pedestrian plaza. A $10 million street improvement project has been started and plans include construction of a 2,800 seat, $35 million performing arts center, although the exact location is still uncertain.

                                                                                                  Brightleaf Square

Self-Help, an enterprising non-profit company created to help individuals who need a hand up instead of a hand out, also contributes to the downtown revitalization. Selp-Help is the brainchild of Martin Eakes, a Greensboro native now living in Durham.

 Self-Help invested $12 million in acquisition and renovation of five buildings with more than 250,000 square feet downtown, some used primarily to assist the city’s African American and Hispanic citizens. The organization also has made almost 400 commercial loans of $49.3 million and more than 420 home loans of $24.3 million to low income families. Although non-profit, Self-Help pays taxes on all its properties.

Self-Help represents much of what Durham leaders are seeking to do for the benefit of its diverse population. From its inception 25 years ago, Self-Help has focused on economic justice and the belief that all people, regardless of race, gender or geography, should have equal access to economic opportunity.

“The average white family in this country has ten times the wealth as the average black family,” Eakes says. “Since most of the nation’s family wealth, regardless of race, is in home equity, Self-Help fulfills its mission by providing credit to those segments of the society who have been left out of the economic mainstream.”

Eakes, whose company provides loans for people often turned away from banks, says his interest in helping others began when as a child he saw how some citizens were mistreated because of race or economic opportunity.

Eakes partnered with the local chamber to accomplish his goal that meshes well with what Tom White and Conner both say they want. White says job numbers alone won’t measure total success. Once the poverty levels are lowered, he says, “then we’ll know we’re getting somewhere.”

Durham was known for decades as the city of tobacco after scion Washington Duke capitalized his first cigarette production plant for $25 million on the early 1890s. This is the family that endowed and named Duke University.

The Duke family once supervised manufacturing of 25 percent of all cigarette production in the nation from downtown Durham. That dwindled over the decades until the last plant closed here in late 2000.

Thanks to Duke Hospital and the medical services it provides, Durham transformed itself from a city built on tobacco into the city of medicine. As the growth spread outside the town’s boundaries, Durham County became the county of MERIT (medicine, education, research, industry and technology).

Durham, of course, is recognized for much more than medicine, merit and education. It’s latest slogan is “A New Era — A New Place” with emphasis on dozens of historic sites, six science and nature centers, 11 signature annual entertainment events, half a dozen nature sites, l0 golf courses, 60 parks, trails and waterways and 300 restaurants that range from hometown grills to big city cuisine.

“The great news for Durham is that it has been the beneficiary of the research and technology from Research Triangle Park and the great universities,” says Bob Ingram, vice chairman of GlaxoSmithKline whose office overlooks the American Tobacco Historic District. “We’ve seen the decline of some industries, but our greatest growth has been in science and health care. Our future is vibrant. Government can do some things, but government can do only so much and then the private sector has to become the engine for growth. There are positive signs all around.”

Ingram cited the value of new malls and retail outlets as positive trends, but he calls the downtown development the key to future success. “That’s where the real success will come as we build on the healthy partnerships,” he says.

Ingram noted the statewide cooperative partnerships that are helping many communities and says that NCCBI’s diligent efforts are due much of the credit for these multiple successes.

Many others echoed Ingram’s view.

Phillip Freelon, an NCCBI board member and Durham architect, lists what he calls the county’s “strong positive indicators” for continued growth as Duke University and its medical center, N.C. Central University, Durham Community College and the working partnerships of the private and public elements in the county. “These are all positive and progressive actions that are causing good things to occur here,” Freelon says.

John Atkins II, newly-elected second vice chair of NCCBI, has watched Durham grow and mature from his prospective as a private businessman and involved volunteer. “The city has really come into its own with the new projects,” Atkins says. “We have the momentum that would be the envy of many cities. We’ve got diversity with the universities and the research facilities. We have new roads and new retail outlets. We’ve had good government leadership. We have job growth, academic excellence and cultural opportunities. There is a lot about Durham that is appealing to businesses and individuals.”

Among the new leadership, Atkins lists Mayor William (Bill) Bell among those who came here with new companies and remained to make a positive difference. Bell first came to Durham with IBM and has served both as mayor and as a county commissioner.

“Durham has unique characteristics that make it appealing,” Mayor Bell says. “We’ve been able to transform ourselves from tobacco manufacturing to high tech. Yes, we still have a high poverty population, but there are multiple organizations working in that area at the grassroots level. The downtown rebirth is encouraging with good things happening without forgetting our heritage.”

Bell’s elected colleague Ellen Reckhow, chairperson of the county board of commissioners, agrees on the future of the economic enhancement. “We have major employers like Duke and IBM representing our major economic drivers,” Reckhow says, “but small businesses represent some 80 percent of our local economy. We are positioned to expand in the biotech and health care areas and are very competitive in this respect. Government has an important role with infrastructure and we are already seeing a positive ripple effect with increased private investment in the downtown area.”

If location is important, Durham County has it. The county boundaries stretch across the pinnacle of what has become known as the Research Triangle Region. Major highways link it to the rest of the state and its neighbors are some of the best-known and most respected universities and research centers in the nation. It is 30 minutes from Raleigh, 15 minutes from the Raleigh-Durham Airport and within only a few miles of hundreds of research facilities. It’s the state’s fourth largest city with 234,000 residents and is one of the state’s fastest growing.

Incomes in Durham County with a mean household personal income of $66,000 are above incomes in most counties. High wages don’t automatically translate into higher costs of living, however, because in Durham it’s 4 percent below the national average. The city and county tax rate is 79 cents per $100 valuation, up 3 cents from the previous fiscal year.

The county’s largest employer by far is Duke University and Health System with 26,681 fulltime with another 9,500-part time and temporary workers. IBM is the second largest employer with 13,000 workers. GlaxoSmithKline is third with 5,000 employees. In most communities, the public school system is the largest single employer. In Durham County the school system is fourth with 4,500 employees. 

Nortel is one of the larger manufacturing companies with 2,600 employees and it adds to the community in more than economic ways. One of its managers, Edgar Murphy, is a member of the State Board of Education and company employees are active participants in community matters. He also chairs NCCBI’s Education Committee. Through the company’s teacher training program, Nortel employees have provided free computer training to more than 6,500 classroom teachers. Company employees have also teamed with local universities on leading-edge technology that will allow greater and easier access to students in rural areas.

“Nortel employees also help meet critical needs in our community through participation in workplace campaigns and activities that support non-profits including United Way, Habitat for Humanity, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and many others,” says Bill Donovan, senior vice president of Global Human Resources. “We are pleased to be able to enhance our local communities.”

Durham County’s public schools are getting better and now compete with the private schools in the county.

Twice in the last four years, voters have shown their support for public schools by approving $255 million in bonds (one for $150 million and one for $105 million) for new buildings and renovations to existing ones. Leaders credit the work of Superintendent Dr. Ann Denlinger for recent successes.

Under Dr. Denlinger’s tenure, the achievement gap between white and minority students narrowed by one third and the dropout rate declined by 40 percent. Nine out of 10 high school graduates now plan to continue their education.

The school system has 31,000 students with 56 percent African American, 26 percent white and the remainder of other nationalities. The system has 45 schools, 2,500 faculty and operates with an annual $307 million budget following merger of the city and county systems.

Durham County schools were the first in the state to receive a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation designed to enhance academic standards and open a new high school in 2007 for students interested in pursuing careers in the medical field.

“Durham Public Schools is making greater strides than ever before at the high school instructional level,” Denlinger says. “This is the direct result of the increased attention and effort put forth by students, teachers, principals, parents and community supporters. The system is now geared to providing students with more options to meet specific needs and improve quality of learning.”

Duke University garners most of the public attention about higher education in the county, but another university is now receiving the attention its leaders say it deserves. N.C. Central, one of the state’s public historically predominantly black universities, may be on the cusp of something big.

The Golden Leaf Foundation, created as part of the national tobacco settlement court case, and the biotechnology industry recently awarded N.C. Central a $19.1 million grant to be used in constructing an institute that will provide researchers and workers for the growing biomanufacturing industry in North Carolina. The Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise (BRITE) Center is being developed for formal degree programs for students and for conducting research.

“Research grants attract talent, build infrastructure and generate additional employment,” Chancellor James Ammons says. “NCCU has a long history in the community of facilitating economic development. With BRITE, the school has the ability to develop a new work force in Durham and the region as part of a national model of the link between education and economic development. This is going to be a technical showplace.”

N.C. Central, the nation’s first publicly supported liberal arts college for African Americans, already is a major economic engine in the region with a student body of almost 8,000 and a work force of 900 full-time employees generating a monthly payroll of $4.5 million. The university has an annual budget of $81 million. The campus is one of the fastest growing in the UNC system with more than $120 million in construction either underway or planned for the near future.

NCCU sets an example for civic responsibility and volunteerism among the nation’s universities with its community service requirement for graduation.

The city and county have been known for generations for enlightenment in the area of civil rights because of Durham’s diversity and economic leadership among African Americans. N. C. Mutual Life Insurance Company headquartered here is the nation’s oldest and largest black-owned life insurance company and M&F Bank has become one of the nation’s strongest African American owned and managed banks. The minority owned business neighborhood in Durham once was known regionally as the “Black Wall Street.”


 Duke University and its Hospital Keep Durham's Economy Healthy

If quality health care and high academic training create a thriving and wholesome community, residents of Durham County ought to be among the healthiest and smartest anywhere. Duke University and its affiliated Medical Center/Health System offer the best and brightest of both.

Duke University and its Health System churns out an estimated $2.6 billion annual economic impact, and the total is growing each year.

Duke purchases approximately $406 million in goods and services from more than 7,500 North Carolina companies and has an annual payroll of $1.5 billion for its more than 36,000 total employees (2,300 teachers and researchers), more than half of it going directly to Durham County families.

Duke’s students and their families and more than a million visitors to the campus each year spend in excess of $314 million in the region on food, lodging and products.

Duke rents approximately a third of all private office space in Durham and pays out some $38 million a year in taxes and fees.

Duke provides some $117 million a year in subsidized care to low income families, another $161 million in care for Medicaid patients and $1.5 million in emergency medical care in the county.

Duke is the fifth largest recipient of National Institute of Health funding at $305 million, had the highest growth rate of NIH funding for the last two years and leads the nation in sponsored research funding at $124 million.

Duke’s student enrollment has climbed to 6,425 undergraduates (almost half receiving some form of financial aid) and another 6,200 graduate and professional students.

While exempt from property taxes on its physical facilities used for educational purposes, Duke picked up the tab for some $14 million in municipal type services for things like campus security and police protection last year, saving the city that many dollars. Additionally, Duke paid $5.4 million in taxes and fees on properties not used principally for educational purposes.

All these economic and lifestyle forces have come into play since James B. Duke willed $4 million in 1925 to establish Duke Hospital.

“Duke is a remarkable economic asset to North Carolina,” NCCBI President Phil Kirk says. “Just consider the number of people Duke employs, the stability of its workforce, and the roll-over impact of salaries in our communities. In addition, Duke’s academic excellence and research collaborations with state universities help make our state more desirable to businesses that we want to attract.”

William J. Donelan, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Duke Health System and an NCCBI board member, echoes those sentiments. “With an annual budget of approximately $2 billion, Duke University Medical Center and Health System are major contributors to the health and well-being of our community,” he says.

But you need not listen just to Duke officials for positive feelings about the university and its related fields of service and research.

Nationally recognized pollster Peter Hart last year surveyed more than 500 rank and file North Carolina citizens and another 100 opinion leaders about Duke. The school came up a champion on all scores. Average citizens and community leaders all rated Duke a premier asset with significant value in educational and health services to people of the state.

The major shortcoming, survey respondents agreed, is that Duke is so good at what it does that it needs to do more of it.

While the university is known for its high academic offerings, most citizens of the state more quickly acknowledge the value of the Health System. Feelings toward Duke in large measure begin and end with the medical center. Survey respondents list that as the most relevant facet of the university’s value.

Duke’s relatively new President Richard Brodhead calls the institution one with “a taste for excellence, the energy and optimism to aspire to it, and the ability to avoid complacency in the face of accomplishment.”

Duke’s distinction as a nationally recognized institution grew significantly in the last two decades. Even as its national reputation grew, the perceived in-state view is that it tended to be overshadowed by the University of North Carolina. The survey seems to disprove that perception.

Duke’s imposing 10,000-acre campus with its regal appearance is a major tourist draw — basketball, academics and health care aside. Its appeal is international with more than 80 countries represented in its student body and faculty. The Duke Chapel, with its 210-foot tower, pulls thousands of visitors to the campus each year.

Duke’s presidents have included former governor and U.S. Senator Terry Sanford and its graduates include U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, former President Richard Nixon, and many scholars, authors, actors and artists. — Ned Cline


 Plenty to See and Do in Durham

Durham boasts world-class cultural events and attractions that rival much larger metropolitan offerings.

 “Durham’s cultural landscape is indigenous and homegrown, yet nationally acclaimed. It reflects the community: spicy and diverse, yet unpretentious,” says Reyn Bowman, president of the Durham Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

The city has 41 places to view art, two major art museums with unique collections, 13 performance art venues, 74 murals or pieces of outdoor art, and 41 nightclubs offering live entertainment. Durham has three national and three state historic sites and is included in the new Civil War Trails program.

The Museum of Life and Science with its Magic Wings Butterfly House and BayerCropScience Insectarium is among the top family attractions nationally.

Nearly every modern dance company of note has attended The American Dance Festival program summers mid-June through early July, which has been at Duke University since 1978. Each summer 30 companies present programs, including several world premiers.

Branford Marsalis, former leader of the Tonight Show band, teaches jazz at N.C. Central University and occasionally plays at local venues. Duke University’s Ciompi Quartet is a classical group that travels worldwide but also plays often in the state.

Martin Scorsese, director of “The Aviator,” “Goodfellas,” “Raging Bull,” and “Casino,” will attend this year’s Full Frame Documentary film festival at the Carolina Theatre April 7-10. Ken Burns, director of PBS documentaries on jazz, the Civil War, Mark Twain, boxer Jack Johnson and baseball also will attend. The festival qualifies short subjects for the Academy Awards and festival goers often see Oscar winning short documentaries long before the general public. Full Frame is one of 10 film festivals held annually in the city.

Famed best-selling author and playwright Gore Vidal brought his Civil War drama, “On the March to the Sea” to Duke this winter with Charles Durning, Michael Learned, Chris Noth, Harris Yulin and Richard Eaton, all well known stars of stage and screen. “Little Women” did its pre-Broadway shakedown at Duke early this year as well. Duke’s drama department frequently draws top stars to the city. They are sometimes spotted dining in its better restaurants.

The Regulator Independent Bookstore on Ninth Street draws many famous authors on book tours, and the city also has numerous well-stocked secondhand book stores, including Books Do Furnish a Room, Nice Price Books and Books on Ninth.

In addition to the flowerful Sarah P. Duke Gardens, the city’s Central Park includes a Japanese meditative garden and hosts free summer concerts.

The Durham Convention & Visitor’s Bureau web site lists more than 2,000 annual events, including 20 major festivals. They include the July 4th weekend Festival on the Eno; the Bull Durham Blues Festival in September held in the Durham Athletic Park where the film “Bull Durham” was made and not far from where Piedmont bluesmen sang on street corners during tobacco auctions; the Native American Pow-Wow in February; and both the Durham Arts Council’s Centerfest and the World Beer Festival in October.

Duke’s nationally-ranked men’s and women’s basketball teams, NCCU’s basketball teams, and of course, the famed Durham Bulls Triple A baseball team offer sports fans much to cheer about.

“Heritage and culture are the backbone of Durham as a place to live and as a tourism destination. Cuisine, history and architecture, performing and visual arts, sports, museums and festivals, gardens and nature areas are emblematic of the community’s texture and rich diversity,” says Bowman.

For up to date information on Durham doings, go to --Allan Maurer



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