The maximum text string for a field in a geodatabase is 320 characters.

The data I am importing has long character strings and it seems to be truncating when I convert into shapefile at the max text string and messing the fields up.

Is there a way to extend this to 700-1000 characters?

The shapefile maximum field width is 254. It is a limitation of the dBase format.

File geodatabase text fields are unlimited in length (2^31-1) and enterprise geodatabases are limited by their underlying RDBMS for VARCHAR and NVARCHAR width.

The only way to work around the dBase width limitation is to not use shapefiles.

If you must use shapefile then you'd need to make multiple fields and concatenate them later (but be careful -- since dBase also has a 4000 byte record limit, you could run out of space quickly).

File geodatabase size and name limits

[…]
File geodatabase size: No limit
Table or feature class size: 1 TB (default), 4 GB or 256 TB with keyword
Number of feature classes and tables: 2,147,483,647
Number of fields in a feature class or table: 65,534
Number of rows in a feature class or table: 2,147,483,647
Geodatabase name length: Number of characters the operating system allows in a folder name
Feature class or table name length: 160 characters
Field name length: 64 characters
Text field width: 2,147,483,647

see http://resources.arcgis.com/en/help/main/10.1/index.html#//018s00000002000000

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