Building a New Economy With Biotechnology

When twin smokestacks at the former Cannon Mills factory imploded with a boom one foggy morning last summer, the hundreds of residents who gathered here to watch them fall were not just bidding the town's textile past goodbye.

They were welcoming its future.

After three years of dormancy, the 1.1-million-square-foot mill complex was being leveled to make way for an audacious undertaking in an unlikely location, a $1.5-billion biotechnology-research campus focused on food and