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
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
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
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
“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
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
“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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
“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
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.”
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
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
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
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
to See and Do in Durham
Durham boasts world-class
cultural events and attractions that rival much larger metropolitan
“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
“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