When Research Triangle Park opened in 1960, Cary became a popular bedroom community for families who moved to the area for work. The sprawling employment hub has played a major role in Cary’s growth over the years.
Here, former Cary Mayor Koka Booth, well-known local artist Jerry Miller and developer C.Y. Jordan reflect on Cary’s early growth spurt.
Koka Booth: IBM arrived in Research Triangle Park, and then Monsanto came soon after that. From ’63 to ’71, the park grew steadily. IBM grew very rapidly, and that attracted subcontractor companies who had reason to be near them.
Within Cary, Taylor Biscuit Company was here and W.R. Grace, an agricultural chemical company, had a facility. That was about it.
Town taxes were 9 percent non-residential and 91 percent residential. A group got together at MacGregor to change the tax base. They put some money together and bought land off of Old Apex Road for industrial development. The first company there was the pharmaceutical aerosol group from England.
Then the land between U.S. 1 and 64 across from MacGregor was zoned for an industrial park. The first industry we recruited there was Firetrol who made fire suppressant equipment. Then Container Graphics and the Lord Corporation and Hunter Industries came there. So many high-quality industries were attracted to that park. That was kind of the turning point.
Our goal was for a 60 percent residential and 40 percent non-residential tax base. When we started getting good industry, it made so much difference. The vision of the town council was to create a town where our children could stay here and work if they want to.
SAS came to Cary in 1980 with 20 people from Raleigh, and made all the difference in the world. Now the company has over 10,000 employees worldwide.
Jerry Miller: When the first corporation, Chemstrand, came to RTP, their people mostly moved to Cary. Twenty-four hours a day I was drawing house plans for the builders to build houses all over Cary for the Chemstrand crowd. Then IBM came to RTP and all the others, and it just boomed.
C.Y. Jordan: My brother Buck Jordan and I went into the residential building business in the early ’50s. He and I would buy a tract of land and develop it. We built Meadowmont and Tanglewood from scratch.
There were not many developers here at that time. R.O. Heater developed Russell Hills as the first development just after World War II. Then Jeff Sugg acquired some properties adjacent to it. Henry Adams also did a small amount of developing on Gray Street.
We built quite a few houses, when lots were available. Greenwood Forest was developed on the old Maynard property. As time went on it grew and grew and others got involved in it. We built some of the properties on Chatham Street, and Buck donated the land and was instrumental in building Jordan Hall when he was developing Northwoods.
Koka Booth: In the late ’60s, Pirate’s Cove was developed. Then in ’72, Kildaire Farm announced their development, MacGregor Downs. That was the trend that you saw suddenly develop, nice homes, but everybody was traveling someplace else to work before the town council started an effort to attract industry to Cary.
Cary’s Heritage was taken from the book “Just a Horse-Stopping Place, An Oral History of Cary, North Carolina,” published in 2006.