Ryan Dayvault

Your Rowan Favorites

Place to Eat: Gary’s Barbecue
Outdoor Activity: High Rock Lake
Event or Festival: Cheerwine Festival

Ryan Dayvault

Facility Manager, UNC-Chapel Hill Nutrition Research Institute, North Carolina Research Campus
Mayor Pro Tem, City of Kannapolis

Native of Rowan County

Industry: Research

Ryan Dayvault has been known to parade around in a banana costume, promoting the North Carolina Research Campus and his city, Kannapolis, in southern Rowan County. He and another Rowan County native, Doug Wilson, were the first to stick their necks out and say that city government should buy the City of Kannapolis from financier David Murdock, chairman and owner of Dole Food Co., and renovate it.

Ryan is uniquely Rowan County born and bred, and he fits perfectly with the county messaging, Be an original™.  “This means that we all, individually and as a community, can be whatever we want to be — and do it our way,” he says. “Our uniqueness and drive are what set us apart from other places. 

“Kannapolis is a special place,” he says. “This is where my heart is. I will fight for the people here to make sure that Kannapolis is a very economically viable place.”  

Years ago, if that meant wearing a banana suit to promote the Research Campus’ emphasis on healthy foods and nutrition, he would do it.  

Youngest Council Member

A political science graduate of Catawba College, Class of 2008, Ryan was first elected to the Kannapolis City Council 11 years ago, when he was 25. He was the youngest person ever elected and is still the youngest person on the council.

He was already working for the Research Campus when he became a public official. “I was a big proponent of getting this place built and maximized,” he says. The Research Campus replaced Cannon Mills, which had closed, and the J.W. Cannon family, who owned the mill and built the town. The Research Campus sits on a 350-acre site, part of which was the original Dayvault family farm. “The Research Campus had to be successful for the town to be successful,” says Ryan. “If it included wearing a banana suit, I would do it.” This was during the time that the Research Campus was just getting off the ground and doing promotional events at festivals. “Dole Food Co. needed somebody to wear the suit just to help spread the word.” The heavy suit required a pillow on his head and produced pressure and a terrible headache, Ryan recalls.

Today, the campus is a scientific community that collaboratively works to empower human health through nutrition and clinical research. Eight universities, the David H. Murdock Research Institute, companies, and entrepreneurs focus research and development on safer, more nutritious crops, healthier foods, precision nutrition, and clinical research.

And the town is revitalized, with 37 new businesses and 300 hires during the pandemic, Ryan says. It also now home to the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers with its $52 million state-of-the-art facility that has something for everyone in the heart of downtown. 

Changing Mindset

Ryan and Doug Wilson, who is also on the City Council, worked for 18 months to convince their fellow council members to buy the town. It was a BIG idea. How many city governments buy a town? 

“With me working at the Research Campus, I could see how bad the town was for recruitment to the Research Campus, Ryan says. “They loved the campus, but they would see the downtown and say, ‘This is a ghost town.’ Doug and I were trying to figure out what to do to change the ownership. We fought for it. Others would say: ‘What can the city do that Mr. Murdock can’t? If it could be done, somebody else should-have, would-have.’ It was a lot of pushing, changing mindset. 

“I served on the Center City Committee and knew the struggles. This was the only way to preserve our heritage and history,” Ryan says. “The buildings were going to fall in. I wanted to move the place forward so that people would enjoy the place.” 

Today, the Downtown Revitalization Project includes the West Avenue Infrastructure & Streetscape and Atrium Health Ballpark. Restaurants, parks, walking trails, townhomes and apartments are abundant, and renovation of the historic Gem Theater is under way. 

Ryan feels humbled and blessed … “to get to represent a portion of my native Rowan County as a City Council member.”

He takes pride in the whole county. He would tell newcomers to visit the Millbridge community and the N.C. 150, 152, and 801 areas — “that whole triangle” — to see the countryside. “You quickly find yourself breezing down two-lane rural roads, with endless beauty of the countryside,” he says. “Rowan’s landscape is full of beauty — a true hidden gem in our region. It’s natural with wide, open spaces. Rowan County still has a rural feel. You can look at farmhouses and barns.” He’s also points out the natural beauty of the Irish Creek Golf Club area along Kannapolis Lake.

His favorite outdoor space is High Rock Lake, where he spent a lot of time with his family growing up. The Dayvault family owned a lake house for 44 years, and Ryan says he still dreams about those days of fishing and all the family getting together for cookouts and fireworks. 

Good People

His favorite restaurant is Gary’s Barbecue in China Grove. “They have the best footlong hot dogs around and are good family friends. My grandaddy and Gary started collecting signs and memorabilia years ago. They’re good people.”

The Cheerwine Festival in downtown Salisbury is his favorite event. “It’s family oriented and very local. I have always loved Cheerwine. I don’t eat a barbecue sandwich without Cheerwine.” Cheerwine originated in Salisbury more than 100 years ago.

Ryan serves on the Kannapolis Education Foundation and is Kannapolis representative on the Cabarrus-Rowan Metropolitan Planning Organization. He has served on the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce, the Red Cross, and the Rowan County United Way. 

Rowan County has many qualities that make it home for Ryan and his wife, Traci. “The good community college and well-respected colleges are all assets, and we have really nice geographic attributes — a good location on the I-85 corridor close to Charlotte but still our own identity.” 

In the end, though, it is the people. “I love the people who make up Rowan County,” he says. “They are good, down-to-earth folks who love their communities. From Kannapolis to High Rock Lake to Catawba College to Barber Junction, the people are the fabric that weaves our communities together.”


Your Rowan Favorites

Place to Eat: Gary’s Barbecue
Outdoor Activity: High Rock Lake
Event or Festival: Cheerwine Festival