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Triangle

At 51, RTP plans for its future

Research Triangle Park marked its 50th anniversary in 2009, and the foundation that supervises and manages the 7,000-acre development announced recently that it is working on a new master plan — the first since 1959. It hired New York-based Cooper, Robertson & Partners Architects LLP to lead the effort. The park, in Durham and Wake counties, now has 170 companies employing 42,000 people. Richard L. “Dick” Daugherty, who was the top executive at the RTP campus of computer giant IBM and retired in 1995, is a foundation board member and heads the task force overseeing development of the plan. It should be finished by the end of next year.

RTP is one of the nation’s most successful office parks. Why adopt a new plan now?
An awful lot of things have changed in 50 years. The park has been tremendously successful, an economic engine for this part of North Carolina and for North Carolina as a whole. However, with changes in how companies operate, how people interact with companies, it seemed to us that, when dealing from a position of strength and success, there’s no better time to take a look at where you’re going to be in the future.

Will it prevent problems from developing?
We want to make some changes that will ensure the success that we have already experienced. If you were to just look at one aspect — the difference between 50 years ago and today — the park was developed with the idea of attracting major companies that would come in and buy land. Today, there are many more entrepreneurial and startup activities, and fewer major companies are moving around. So the key question: Are we ready for that change? And if not, what do we do to get ready?

How much of a concern is the park’s vacancy rate, and will the plan look at the possible need to redevelop older parts of the park?
It will certainly address the aging of buildings. Remember, though, that somebody else owns those buildings and land. It would be of great concern to us if people were moving out because they didn’t want to be in the park, for whatever reason they might have. But if a company has [financial] difficulty, such as Nortel, and vacates its buildings as part of a down- sizing, then we would like to help find people to utilize the space.

Does the foundation envision developing a “Research Triangle Park II” nearby — maybe on a university campus?
That is not part of the current master-plan idea. There is a large park called Centennial Campus at N.C. State University, and that has really blossomed and is doing all the things that the university wants. In Chapel Hill, a recently announced project is Carolina North. Rather than RTP developing something like that, we would work in cooperation with existing entities.

Among RTP’s biggest catches in recent years were Fidelity Investments and Credit Suisse, both financial-services companies. That seems like a shift from the traditional emphasis on research. Will that continue?
Everything is open to consideration. And while Credit Suisse and Fidelity came in, there have been a lot of smaller high-tech companies that came in at the same time. We’ve seen constant growth over the last 40 years, and we added people this year.

RTP is nearly all office and research space. Other parks also have residential, retail and recreational space. Is that in RTP’s future?
It all depends on what the consultants come back with. Nothing is off-limits. We will look at transportation, for instance. There are traffic issues. People are talking about light rail.

Since RTP was developed, what ideas for amenities, landscaping, etc., have become standard in planning office parks?
One difference would be having more capability to handle entrepreneurial-type companies and startups, some of which might spin out of universities. Today’s professional is different from the professional of 50 years ago. There is more need for areas to meet with each other, and communication is vital. In RTP, there is a great deal of open space, while in newer office parks, and in some older ones, too, the buildings are in closer proximity to each other.

RTP might become more densely developed?
That’s certainly something we would look at.

CHAPEL HILL — Thomas W. Ross will take over in January as president of the 17-campus University of North Carolina system. Ross, 60, has been president of Davidson College, his alma mater, since 2007. A graduate of UNC Chapel Hill’s law school, he spent 17 years as a superior-court judge and seven as executive director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem. He will succeed Erskine Bowles, 65, who announced his retirement in February.

SANFORD — Heavy-equipment maker Caterpillar will spend $28.3 million to expand its factory here, adding 325 jobs within four years. That will bring employment to 620 at the local plant, which makes loaders. The average annual wage for the new jobs will be $35,602. A company supplier also is expected to locate 160 jobs in the state.

DURHAMAviat Networks, which earlier this year changed its name from Harris Stratex and moved its headquarters from here to Santa Clara, Calif., will shut down its Triangle operations by February. The maker of communications equipment says the move will eliminate about 190 jobs.

DURHAMBlue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, the state’s largest health insurer, plans to lay off 90 data-entry workers as part of its effort to trim operating costs 20% by 2014. It will still have more than 4,000 employees. It also announced that it will raise premiums for individual coverage by 7% next year, lower than this year’s 12% increase.

RALEIGHWakeMed Health & Hospitals plans to boost its net operating income $87 million this fiscal year — up from about $25 million in the year that ended Sept. 30 — through revenue gains and budget reductions. The cuts will include eliminating jobs in some departments and paring services where the Raleigh hospital isn’t the market leader. It employs about 6,200.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARKMedicago plans to build a factory that will employ 85 here within three years. The Quebec-based drug developer uses tobacco leaves to produce flu vaccines. The annual average salary will be $50,229, less than the Durham County average of $57,772. A $21 million Defense Department grant will pay for the factory, due to be finished by October 2011.

RALEIGH — New York-based private-equity firm Avista Capital Partners and Canada-based Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan agreed to buy INC Research, a contract research organization. Terms weren’t disclosed. INC says the deal, expected to close by year-end, won’t affect its 575 North Carolina employees.

RALEIGH — Mid-America Apartment Communities paid $33.6 million for Hue, a downtown Raleigh condominium development. Memphis, Tenn.-based Mid-America plans to convert Hue’s 208 units to apartments. A Los Angeles company borrowed $36 million to build Hue before turning it over to its lender without ever selling a unit.

RALEIGHRed Hat, which sells and services the Linux computer-operating system, appointed retired Gen. Hugh Shelton, 68, its chairman. He replaced Matt Szulik, 53, who had resigned. Shelton, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has been on the board since 2003 and lead director since 2008.

RALEIGHJones & Frank, which sells petroleum equipment and services, moved its headquarters here from Norfolk, Va. It will employ about 25 at the corporate office and about 50 who work at a branch office and warehouse. CEO Sterling R. Baker is from here.

MORRISVILLETrident Marketing hired 45 employees for a call center it opened here last month. The Southern Pines-based company, whose clients include DirectTV and ADT, employs about 350 in its hometown.

CARYRed Storm Entertainment laid off 38, leaving it with 129 employees. The video-game company’s parent is France-based Ubisoft. The industry has been hit by a slump, with sales falling 8% last year.

DURHAMPocketGear, which employs about 20 locally making software for smart phones, raised $15 million in a funding round led by Palo Alto, Calif.-based Trident Capital. It wants to improve its technology and expand its sales force.