More than 90 startups have passed through the center, with about70 becoming functioning businesses. Of that number, over 60 stillexist.

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In a published report, Irvin says the center has initiated a42-month program, one of the newer ideas at the facility. Companiesstart at the concept phase and continue until raising money andleaving the park.

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Although the center has a $1 million operating budget, and hasnever raised money from institutional investors, it is now in aphase of raising venture capital. Irwin feels the center is one ofthe best-kept secrets in Charlotte.

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But growth is just a matter of time. It is believed that UNCCharlotte will be the largest university in the state in fiveyears. It is clearing about 600 acres to build a new park, theMillennium Campus. Land for the current research park, whichstretches over a 10-mile radius, was purchased and developedoriginally by the University Research Park Corp.

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Other research parks are not as fortunate as Ben Craig Center.In Winston-Salem, NC, for instance, the Piedmont Triad ResearchPark continues to have difficulty in securing funding and businessdevelopment, even though it is part of Winston-Salem's effort tohave a technology-driven economy. Winston-Salem is 60 miles northof Downtown Charlotte. The park places its hopes for success onuniversity research, its medical center and the chamber ofcommerce.

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After about four years of planning, the park's anchor buildingopened in 1994. At present, two multi-tenant buildings contain 20companies, mostly in the biotechnology and information technologyfields. These are small companies engaged in the processes ofadding employees, raising money and putting products or services onthe market.

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