Businesses Leave But Downtown Durham Continues to Thrive
Posted June 1, 1999
DURHAM — Three significant businesses, some of them institutions in the Bull City, are all pulling out of downtownDurham.
Years ago, thousands of people worked at Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company.
The company's move to Mebanetakes more than 300 jobs out of downtown Durham.Midway Airlinestook off, too.
Several hundred more downtown Durham jobs have landed near RDU.Mechanics and Farmers Bank, after nearly a century downtown, is also moving out.
"If they don't develop more entrepreneurs in downtown Durham, downtown will be a ghost-town like many areas of downtown America," said resident Ken Wormack.
As executive director of Downtown Durham Incorporated, it is Bill Kalkhof's job to bring in new business after some significant losses.
"This is a loss, I think, mainly from a public relations point of view," said Kalkhof.
Kalkhof points out that along with the losses, there are gains. Blue Devil Ventures is turning old tobacco warehouses into commercial, residential and retail properties.
He says several companies are interested in the old Midway offices in Durham Center. The Durham office of the Employment Security Commission says the Midway move is not really a loss.
"With Midway moving to their new facility near the airport, those are not lost jobs, those are re-located jobs," said Tim Havey of the Employment Security Commission.
The Liggett move could also be turned into a positive one. Some are ready to move in before the tobacco company moves out.
"It is actually a very exciting opportunity for us, and in fact, we've had calls from developers already from in and out of state about the property, and they're not even on the market yet," said Kalkhof.
Even with those businesses leaving, the unemployment rate in Durham is at 1.6 percent. That is one of the lowest figures ever.