Officials Want Key Figure Paul Simmons in BioPlex Project Out

by Ted Wagnon  on Monday, Mar. 31, 2014 12:00 am  

Promoter Paul Simmons at Aug. 17 press conference. (Photo by Tom Honeycutt) | Originally published in Arkansas Business Oct 1., 1984.

A version of this article originally appeared in Arkansas Business on Oct. 1, 1984. It is being republished as part of Arkansas Business' 30th anniversary issue. You can access the digital edition for free here.

A proposed development that was to have catapulted Arkansas into the forefront of high-technology manufacturing is in disarray now, less than two months after its unveiling.

At the heart of this turn of events is Paul L. Simmons, a Tampa, Fla., resident who professes to be a nationally known consultant to major pharmaceutical and “biotechnology” firms.

Simmons is the man who organized a group of Florida investors and persuaded them to come to Arkansas with their plan for BioPlex International, the state’s first high-tech industrial park.

Initial investment in a “core facility” for the manufacturing center was set at $10 million, with many times that possible over the next decade, promoters said in August. Thousands of jobs might also be created, they pointed out.

Simmons, who says he has organized high-tech financing packages in Florida, has been portrayed as the key figure in the entire project. He allegedly knows a wealthy individual who has agreed to buy the entire $10 million bond issue, something local officials say is essential to success.

Evidence collected from numerous sources in the pharmaceutical industry, from public agencies in several states and from local economic developers indicates, however, that Simmons’ background and business contacts are substantially different from those he has described to Arkansans.

Questions about those inconsistencies have led his local contacts to conclude that the multimillion-dollar project cannot succeed unless Simmons withdraws. Local sources say they remain hopeful, but are not overly optimistic that the project can survive in any case, given the publicity they know is coming.

Their concerns stem from an inquiry by Arkansas Business showing:

• In 1979, Simmons claimed in a national pharmaceutical journal that he holds an engineering degree from a college the FBI now says was a “diploma mill.” Its founder, an ex-convict, was arrested last year in Missouri as part of a nationwide crackdown on bogus mail-order colleges.

Simmons has subsequently denied having any postsecondary degree, and insists he did not provide the questionable biographical information to the magazine. The magazine’s publisher insists the information was supplied by Simmons and says “we keep that kind of stuff on file.”

• Simmons professes to have received an honorary doctorate of divinity by mail from a school in Oklahoma, but says he has forgotten the name. He denies reports that he has operated a church in his home, but concedes he did found a publishing firm named the Religious Order of Systematic Theology, ROST.



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