updated 4/5/2005 7:07:54 PM ET 2005-04-05T23:07:54

Philip Morris USA announced plans Tuesday to build a $300 million research and development center in Richmond that will focus on reducing the hazards of smoking.

Virginia offered the cigarette maker $15 million in incentives to beat out North Carolina for the project, which will be built in the Virginia Biotechnology Research Park in downtown Richmond and create about 500 jobs.

"Over the past decade, Philip Morris USA has dedicated significant resources toward scientific research, new product development and commercialization which might help address the harm caused by smoking," John R. Nelson, Philip Morris president of operations and technology. "This center is another step in that effort."

Philip Morris said it is the company's largest building project since the 1980s.

At the biotech park, 51 companies and research institutes already employ more than 1,350 scientists, researchers, technicians and engineers. The site is almost squarely between Philip Morris USA corporate headquarters and the company's huge cigarette factory, which produces about 30 million packs of Marlboros and other brands daily.

The city is donating the land for the building. The company also will get a 40 percent reduction in real estate taxes for 10 years and $3 million in federal highway money for associated road projects. The center is expected to open in 2007.

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