Kannapolis was once home to Cannon Mills, the largest manufacturer of sheets and towels in the world. In 2003, the Pillowtex Corporation, the last owner of the textile company, closed its doors, laying of 7,650 people in one day. Four thousand three hundred and forty of that number lived in Kannapolis or the counties surrounding the city. This was the largest one-day layoff in North Carolina history. In December of 2004, David Murdock purchased the former Cannon Mills Plant One at auction and then in 2005 announced plans for a 1.5 billion scientific and economic revitalization project. The result is the NC Research Campus, which aims to house and partner biotechnology firms with leading North Carolina Research Universities. Below is a brief timeline that chronicles important moments in the creation of Kannapolis as a textile mill town to its current manifestation as the "Home of Science".
- J.W. Cannon purchases 808 acres of farmland and begins the construction of the mill town
- The new mill at Kannapolis opens and towel production begins.
- Cannon Manufacturing moves its headquarters to Kannapolis.
- The Pacific Holding Company, owned by David H. Murdock, purchases Cannon Mills.
- Kannapolis residents vote to incorporate the town of Kannapolis.
- Pacific Holding Company sells the bed and bath operations of Cannon Mills to Fieldcrest Mills Inc. of Eden North Carolina. The companies are consolidated and the new corporation is known as Fieldcrest Cannon, Inc.
- Fieldcrest Cannon is sold to the Pillowtex Corporation of Dallas Texas.
- Pillowtex files for bankruptcy protection.
- On July 30 Pillowtex permanently closes its doors and announces total liquidation.
- September 12 - Murdock announces plans for a $1.5 billion scientific and economic revitalization project called the North Carolina Research Campus.
- February 23 - A groundbreaking ceremony is held for the North Carolina Research Campus's first building and centerpiece, the David H. Murdock Core Laboratory.
- March 24 - D.H. Griffin Inc., of Greensboro, NC, implodes Pillowtex buildings.
- August 21 - A topping out ceremony is held for the David H. Murdock Core Laboratory, along with the announcement of the purchase of a 950 MHz NMR, the world's largest, to be housed in the the David H. Murdock Research Institute.
- September 6 - Rowan Cabarrus Community College announce the development and implementation of its R3 (Refocus, Retrain, Reemploy) Center at the NCRC, designed to train a local workforce for opportunities at the NCRC.
- September 24 - In a ceremony outside the David H. Murdock Core Lab, a $35 million gift from Murdock to Duke University is announced, as well as the Duke-led M.U.R.D.O.C.K. Study, an intergenerational study. (M.U.R.D.O.C.K.-Measurement to Understand the Reclassification of Disease in Cabarrus and Kannapolis.)
- January - NCSU Libraries' Special Collections Research Center begins collecting Oral Histories and documenting the transformation of the city of Kannapolis from textile-mill town to information-research hub.
- September - The NCSU Libraries' Special Collections Research Center becomes the archives for the NC Research Campus.
- October 20 - An Open House and Dedication Ceremony is held for the David H. Murdock Core Laboratory Building, UNC Nutrition Research Building, and the NC State Fruit and Vegetable Science Institute Building.