Durham was once best known for its textile mills and its tobacco factories, including the “Bull Durham Tobacco and Company” and “Duke & Sons.” However, in the late 1980s Durham hit hard times, marked by the closure of Erwin Mills (Burlington Industries) in 1986 and, just one year later, of the American Tobacco factory.
Located in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill “Research Triangle” region of North Carolina—anchored by Duke University, the University of North Carolina, North Carolina Central University, and North Carolina State University in Raleigh, Durham has sought in recent years to reinvent itself as the “Medicine City. Today, the city houses roughly 300 medical and health-related companies and medical practices with a combined payroll that exceeds $1.5 billion annually.
The Research Triangle region is home to over 1.5 million. The city of Durham, like the rest of its surrounding region, has grown rapidly in recent years. The Census Bureau estimates that the city of Durham's population as of 2010 was just greater than 228,000 — nearly 20,000 above the level of just five years before and more than 40 percent greater than in 1990. About 42 percent of the population is white, another 40 percent African American, and the remainder are Asian or indigenous. Just over 14 percent of Durham's population identifies as hispanic or latino.
Despite its relatively small size, the city of Durham is home to a wide range of community wealth building institutions, which have played a leadership role, both locally and nationally, in community wealth building efforts.
An overview of community wealth building efforts follows: