Durham County has evolved from an agricultural and manufacturing economy to achieve world-class status in the areas of medicine, research and high technology. In the process, it has become one of the country's most desirable places to live. The internationally known Research Triangle Park is home to more than 170 global research and development organizations including, BASF, Credit Suisse, CREE, Cisco, GlaxoSmithKline, IBM, RTI International, Syngenta and Parexel. These companies and others in the Park employ approximately 33,000 people. These companies and others in the park employ approximately 39,000 fulltime workers and 10,000 contract workers. Other major research and development organizations, including AW North Carolina, BD, bioMerieux, Boramed, Cormetech, and Organon Teknika are located in the northern section of the county. Burt’s Bees has headquarters in downtown Durham.
Durham County government has been a catalyst for on-going economic development and the demand for public services continues to increase. Voters approved a $120 million in bond issues in 1986 to fund necessary improvements to schools and public buildings, water and sewer infrastructure, law enforcement facilities, museums, historic properties, and community development. In 1991, voters approved an additional $131 million in bonds to renovate and build schools, improve the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science and build a northern campus for Durham Technical Community College. In 2016, Durham voters supported $170 million in bonds to support Durham Public Schools, Durham Technical Community College, the Museum of Life + Science and a major expansion and renovation of the Main Library located in downtown Durham.
These improvements have gone a long way toward preserving Durham County's enviable quality of life, and creating the pathway for the infrastructure expansion necessary to support growth projections for one of the fastest growing cities in the Southeast.