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Triangle

Both 2014 Opens have got their number: 2

United States Golf Association Executive Director David Fay doesn’t know exactly how much his organization will save by holding the men’s and women’s U.S. Open golf tournaments in Pinehurst on back-to-back weeks in 2014. It has never been tried before, and questions loom about the best way to market and sell the events.

But he doesn’t mind admitting that thrift factored into the decision. Having the events a week apart on Pinehurst No. 2 means the USGA can use the same tents, ropes, grandstands, drink stands, portable toilets and other equipment. The Far Hills, N.J.-based organization reported spending more than $80 million to run 16 tournaments last year, up from nearly $73 million in 2007. The men’s and women’s Opens represent the largest chunks of that spending.

Fay and USGA Executive Committee Vice President Jim Hyler Jr., former vice chairman and chief operating officer of Raleigh-based First Citizens BancShares, say the idea of holding the events in the same place didn’t come up until February. “We needed an outstanding site for ’14, and we didn’t have one,” Fay says. “We love the course. We love the area. So it was a matter of going through an exhaustive set of questions to figure out whether we could pull this off.”

The golf doubleheader will allow the USGA to package tickets and hospitality tents, Fay says. The organization isn’t yet sure how it will proceed. But “we’d be nuts not to take advantage of it in some creative ways.” One way it already has taken advantage of the decision is by generating excitement for the women’s event. The selection of a site for the women’s Open usually doesn’t create much of a buzz.

Pinehurst was the natural place to experiment, USGA officials say. Because of its sandy soil and sturdy Bermuda grasses, the course should hold up for two consecutive weeks of play. The Donald Ross design also factors in. It’s not a particularly long course, so the USGA won’t have to do much tweaking to prepare it for the women. “We knew that if we were ever going to do this, Pinehurst is the best place to do it,” Hyler says. Additionally, Reg Jones, the USGA’s managing director of U.S. Opens, lives in Moore County and formerly worked as Pinehurst Resort’s championship management director.

Locally, it means the resort will put its signature course off limits for most of June 2014. Still, President Don Padgett II is excited that No. 2 will become the first course to host all five of the USGA’s major championships. “It makes golf history. We’re humbled and honored to try this concept.”

GARNER — A natural gas leak caused an explosion that killed three and injured 40 at the local ConAgra Foodsplant, according to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The plant, which employs about 900, makes Slim Jim meat snacks. The Omaha, Neb.-based company hasn’t said whether it will resume full production.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — Swedish cell-phone maker Ericsson will lay off 167 workers at its local campus by the end of the year, leaving it with fewer than 25. About 1,800 worked here a decade ago.

CARYLoparex, a Dutch manufacturer of specialty paper and films, will move its U.S. headquarters here from Willowbrook, Ill., by the end of the year. It will employ 60. The company also plans to add about 70 jobs within four years at its factory in Eden, where it employs more than 90. It could receive nearly $2.4 million in state incentives.

RALEIGHState Employees’ Credit Union plans to begin construction this fall on a 12-story speculative office building near the state government complex. The 240,000-square-foot building would include a credit-union branch, 77,500 square feet of office space and a parking deck.

DURHAMSemprius, which develops advanced semiconductors, raised $6.4 million to continue work on solar modules that it says will generate power more efficiently for utilities. It employs about 20.

DURHAM — Interim CEO Kevin Sowers, 47, was named chief of Duke University Hospital. He had filled in since June 2008, when William Fulkerson was promoted to senior vice president of clinical affairs for the hospital’s parent, Duke University Health System. Sowers had been chief operating officer six years.

BENSON — Charlotte-based Polymer Group, which makes diapers, wipes and other products, plans to close a factory in North Little Rock, Ark., and shift production here. It didn’t say whether it would add to the local plant’s 240 employees.