Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for that wonderful, warm welcome. It's a privilege to be with all of you today and to share the stage with so many outstanding servants of the public. And it's great to be back in Kannapolis. As you know, I'm from just up the road in Salisbury, so this is like coming home for me.
I believe a new day is dawning here in Kannapolis, with the announcement of this ambitious, forward-thinking redevelopment project. My heartfelt thanks to David Murdock for inviting me here today, and thanks to you, David, and Lynne Scott Safrit for all you have done to make this day possible. And ladies and gentlemen, I understand Dole Food Company donated one million dollars worth of nutritious food to the Hurricane Katrina relief effort on the first day of that terrible tragedy, and the support has continued with additional product, monies and employee contributions to the Gulf region. I certainly applaud such outstanding generosity! And President Molly Broad, thank you for the great job you're doing leading our University system and for recognizing the vast opportunities this project presents, not just for our universities but also for our state's economy.
All of us remember well what happened on this very site just two years ago, when Pillowtex shuttered its doors and nearly 5,000 people lost their jobs - - the largest layoff in North Carolina history. It was a very emotional experience for me to speak with displaced workers here in Kannapolis about the challenges that lay ahead. Fellow North Carolinians crowded around me, asking "Mrs. Dole, what's going to happen to my 401k?" "How am I going to pay for healthcare for my child's illness?" "I'm 55 years old, how will I find work without a high school education?"
To help folks get answers to these and other questions, I opened a temporary Senate office in Kannapolis and worked closely with Labor Secretary Elaine Chao who provided immediate funding for job retraining and unemployment benefits - - $11 million dollars to pay for remedial education, community college tuition, job placement and other services for workers. Up to $2.5 million dollars was directed to the community college system to help with the heavier load of students.
As evidenced by Pillowtex and many other closings and layoffs in our state's traditional industries in recent years, North Carolina's economy has, most certainly, been hit hard. But our business and community leaders, state and local officials, educators—all of us know that to revive our economy and attract new industries and jobs to our great state, we must think creatively. Ladies and gentlemen, the plan for the North Carolina Research Campus is a shining example of such creativity and vision. It is an example of resourcefully using the very things that have made this state great—our mill towns, our universities, our strong workforce—to revive our economy and make us even greater.
As we've heard, the North Carolina Research Campus will look to the Kannapolis community and the site of former textile mills to house a new, modern biotechnology facility, transforming this site into the economic centerpiece of Kannapolis. This facility and the resulting development will benefit current residents and attract new families, and of course, new, sustainable jobs! And what a great concept!
The Research Campus will look to our state's outstanding research universities—some of the finest in the nation—to collaborate in this endeavor. Not only will these universities conduct important research at the Kannapolis facility, they will produce many of its future workers—consider this: 86 percent of biotechnology employees have college degrees, and more than 20 percent have graduate degrees.
The Research Campus will also look to our community colleges to help educate people for jobs at this facility. North Carolina has one of the largest and finest community college systems in the country with almost 800,000 students enrolled at our 59 institutions. These colleges continue to play a critical role in helping workers learn new skills for high demand jobs—and they are up to the task of training workers for jobs at the research campus and in the supporting industries.
Once again, Ladies and gentlemen, I am so proud to see Kannapolis moving forward with this tremendous endeavor. It is a joy to be here with you to celebrate this exciting day for the city and the state of North Carolina. God bless each and every one of you. God bless this great land of the free—America