Entrepreneurs thrive in Durham

By Taylor Coil
UNC-CH Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE

In the heart of the American Tobacco Campus, business is booming, said Kathryn James, Director of Entrepreneurship at the Council for Entrepreneurial Development. It’s not because of cigarettes — it’s because of startup companies.

The American Tobacco Campus, illuminated by night lights. (Staff photo by Taylor Coil)

CED is located in the American Underground, an office space located at the American Tobacco Campus, and has been supporting Durham entrepreneurs since 1984.

“Durham is a place that entrepreneurs are attracted to and that was something that attracted us,” said James.

Though CED has existed for decades, Durham has seen an increase in the number of startup companies located in the city over the past several years, James said.

“I think it started with the real estate renovation,” she said. “It started with Durham having nowhere to go but up.”

James said that the rise of entrepreneurship in Durham brings a new cultural aspect to the area and described the influx of entrepreneurs as the new creative class, a movement that is good for Durham in part because the people involved are naturally inclined to revitalize tired areas.

“You have this run-down part of town, and you have this class of people that see the potential and opportunity in empty buildings,” James said.

Since CED is located next to Northeast Central Durham, members do not have to look far to find empty buildings worthy of revitalization. Entrepreneurs value expertise and the availability of technology much more than attractive office space, James said.

Proximity to the American Underground and therefore proximity to a network of entrepreneurs makes Northeast Central Durham attractive. The Cookery, a Durham company that rents professional kitchen space to food entrepreneurs, remodeled part of the old Durham Food Co-op building on West Chapel Hill Street. The Cookery was founded in 2011 by Durham native Nick Hawthorne-Johnson.

“The space doesn’t matter as much – it can be empty and completely no-frills, but the tech support has to be cutting edge,” she said.

Emerging technology is something Durham does well. Durham’s proximity to the Research Triangle Park and prestigious universities allow for a network of experts that entrepreneurs need, James said. Many entrepreneurs represented at CED are in the technology industry themselves.

James said this creative class is drawn to Durham because the quality of life is much higher than in entrepreneurial hubs on the West Coast. Relocated entrepreneurs want an urban environment, a walkable community and a network that will help their businesses thrive.

“We have a lot of entrepreneurs who have started a family and want to make it more doable, so Durham is attractive to a lot of those people.”


About CED

CED is a private, non-profit organization in Durham that serves more than 5,500 active members in North Carolina. CED has helped launch more than 700 companies and has helped local entrepreneurs raise more than $1 billion in capital. CED is the oldest entrepreneurial network in the United States. More information about CED can be found at www.cednc.org.


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