Site Chosen, but Little Rock Tech Park Details Lacking

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Nov. 11, 2013 12:00 am  

In 2011, Little Rock taxpayers agreed to funnel $22 million from sales tax proceeds toward the park. According to Scott Massanelli, Little Rock’s treasury manager, $3.2 million has so far been collected for the tech park fund, none of which has yet been spent.

But that money is only for initial infrastructure, after which more will need to be raised. Mary Good, chair of the park authority’s board, has stated that no private investment will be sought until the location is nailed down.

A local entrepreneur, Rod Ford, has expressed interest in locating his company, nGage, in the park. There’s also BioVentures, the University of Arkansas for Medical Science’s life science incubator.

BioVentures inspired the original development of the park in 2005, Chesshir said, when the Little Rock Chamber started discussing how that research could be commercialized. And UAMS is now running out of lab space for the research.

“They’ve been full and have had to turn away companies,” Chesshir said. “So we look at that as one of the anchors of the first facility, incorporating what they’re doing and what [the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s] nanotechnology center is doing and how we can utilize those resources as anchors in our first building.”

BioVentures’ space in the park would include services like accounting, legal services, administration and access to a regular office setup.

“That becomes part of the shared equipment opportunity that these individual small companies on their own couldn’t afford,” Chesshir said.

Certainty

So if the only certain part of the authority’s plan is a location, how can anyone be certain that it’s even a good fit for Little Rock?

Stafford at the UA said the approach of having buildings first, then businesses, was a bit concerning. “I think you need to be a little more proactive, and need to have more of a strategic approach of how you foster, grow and sustain in a research environment,” he said. “There’s a value proposition question in there.”

But Stafford also said he’s optimistic. “I’ve spent some time with the board of directors,” he said. “I’m bullish on knowledge-based and tech-based economic development. You know, these things, in my opinion, it’s all about the value-add. And tying the technology-based economic development to the intellectual assets of a major research university is a very good idea.”

Sharon Priest, executive director of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership, said the downtown location would bring value to that area.

 

 

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