Consultant's pick for tech park site delayed a month

It will be another month before real estate consultant Jeff Yates recommends property along Main Street to be the location of the future technology park, he told the Little Rock Technology Park Authority Board on Wednesday.

Yates was scheduled to deliver that recommendation at Wednesday's meeting but said a delay in hiring an appraiser and time issues with one of the property owners prevented him from having his report ready in time. He said he's confident he will have a recommendation by the board's July meeting.

Board member Kevin Zaffaroni noted that Yates said last month that he was just a month away from a recommendation.

Yates responded: "I have a much higher level of confidence today than I did a month ago that we really will be there or at least to a point where we won't jeopardize anything if we lay the report out [at the next meeting.] We are making progress on all fronts. I'd be tickled to provide a report tonight as much as I can ... but if I tell you the properties that don't work, it gives the properties that do work a pretty clear indication that they are in a good spot."

Chairman Mary Good said it is unfortunate that the report was delayed but that she'd rather have a full report than a piecemeal one that jeopardizes the process.

The board voted in October to locate the future tech park somewhere along the downtown Main Street corridor, but is relying on Yates to identify what available property would best suit the planned multibuilding facility and to negotiate with property owners.

The park will be the first in central Arkansas and is meant to provide space to local startup companies that will use research from area hospitals and universities to build their companies and put products on the market. Ultimately, the tech park will attract jobs and boost the economy of the region, supporters say.

The authority first began looking for a location to house the park in November 2011. There's still some debate about whether the buildings need to be contiguous, or whether they could be scattered and still create the close campus feel that a tech park is meant to have.

Board member Jay Chesshir announced Wednesday that Brent Birch accepted the board's job offer and will become the tech park's executive director July 7. Birch will leave his job as the chief information officer at Arkansas Business Publishing Group to take on the new role, where he will make $100,000 a year.

Metro on 06/12/2014

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