Cabarrus in running to land biopharma firm

Cabarrus County economic developers said Friday the county is in the running for a biopharmaceutical project that has the potential to be worth up to $1.5 billion and bring more than 1,000 jobs.

But the likelihood of that ever happening is unclear.

John Cox, who runs the county Economic Development Corp., said the county has made it through the first round of cuts by the company. Cox, who declined to identify the company, said he did not know the number of other sites under consideration or how long it would take the company to decide what to do next.

“We're in the exceptionally early, embryonic stage in this particular project,” Cox said. “Sometimes projects pop up and get big, then go away. Sometimes they come back.”

The biopharma industry, which can involve biotech or pharmaceutical companies, makes pharmaceutical products for diagnosis or therapy based on molecules, proteins or cells.

Cox said the $1.5 billion North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, the biotech campus being developed by billionaire Dole Food owner David Murdock, drew the county to the attention of the unnamed company.

“Prior to the North Carolina Research Campus, we were not on anyone's radar for biotech projects,” Cox said.

One massive site the county wants to see redeveloped is the 2,200-acre Philip Morris USA complex in Concord. The cigarette maker is ending production there in 2010 and has not decided yet what to do with the site after it leaves.