Tech Park predicts November-December opening | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Tech Park predicts November-December opening

Posted By on Wed, Jan 13, 2016 at 6:50 PM

click to enlarge Nancy Gray, new head of UAMS Bioventures and member of the Tech Park board.
  • Nancy Gray, new head of UAMS Bioventures and member of the Tech Park board.
Confusing all our rock and roll and art fans, I posted an advance on today's Tech Park meeting on our Rock Candy blog. At the risk of further confusion, I'm leaving that post below and updating what happened at the meeting here.

Tech Park executive director Brent Birch reported to the board that in response to several inquiries from various companies about the park and when it will be open, he's been saying November or December. Construction is to begin in March. The work is to begin on the top, sixth, floor of the building, known as the Annex. Leasing will begin before the work on the building is complete.

Birch credits the uptick in interest in leasing  to the publication of architectural drawings for the renovation of the first building park will occupy, at 417 Main St., at the board's last meeting. 

Board member Jay Chesshir also reported on new startups headed for Little Rock. He said that 10 "disruptive" (that's a good word in the tech biz) companies will come to Little Rock for a 15-week collaborative program with the Venture Center and finance technology company FIS to develop new banking technology for FIS. The idea is that FIS may either acquire, license or invest in the company that produces what its is looking for in innovative technology. Chesshir said the companies would come from all over the world to Little Rock in mid-summer and he hopes there will be space in Tech Park @ 107 space on Markham for them. Chesshir said he hoped FIS could expand their offices here and that the "disruptives" might stay on to do business here.

Both Birch and Chesshir mentioned new tech businesses that have come to town. So if new businesses are coming, and finding places to lease, what's the point of the Tech Park? 

Buckley O'Mell and Birch answered that the businesses "hate the spaces" they've rented because they don't allow for easy interaction between entrepreneurs. Clarification: Birch said today that he was speaking casually. He said he'd like to clarify that local tech companies who've found themselves in space such as former law offices don't find them "conducive to collaboration and functionality for tech firms."

The board also approved a lease rate schedule for the 421 Main Building (see below) and a resolution to obtain a loan of $17.5 million from a consortium of banks headed by Centennial Bank.

The earlier post:

The Little Rock Technology Park Authority board meets today at 4 p.m. with a new member at the table, Nancy Gray, the director of UAMS Bioventures. She replaces UAMS' Chancellor Dan Rahn's appointee Tom Butler. Rahn reappointed Kevin Zaffaroni, who is retired from Acxiom.

Gray was previously vice president for corporate development at the Southern Research Institute in Birmingham, Ala. A news release from the authority said Gray there "completed one joint venture agreement, 30 license agreements and 37 collaboration agreements." 

Today's meeting, at 107 Markham St., will begin with a public hearing on the issuance of finance notes from the consortium of banks lending the park $17.5 million for phase one construction. The regular monthly meeting begins at 4:15 p.m. 

Financials released along with the meeting agenda show a single "donor investment" of $5,000 to the authority. That donation came from the Walton Family Foundation, according to Brent Birch, tech park director, and is the first donation independent of park sponsors or the city of Little Rock.

Birch will present a draft of the lease the park will enter into with the state Building Authority for the Five Main Building at Fifth and Main that the authority is buying from Five Main LLC. Under the terms of the lease, the state will pay the tech park $62,954.03 a month for 44,230 square feet. The building houses the state Department of Higher Education.

Birch will also discuss inquiries he's received from companies interested in locating in the tech park, a number he said was up since renderings of the first building the park will occupy, at 417 Main St., were made public. 

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