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Conway advances measure to attract business

by Jeannie Roberts | November 26, 2020 at 3:33 a.m.

The Conway City Council unanimously approved a resolution this week expressing the intent to issue a revenue bond of up to $95 million to assist in bringing an unidentified "Delaware corporation engaged in the sale of rural lifestyle products" to the city.

"They're not, obviously, ready to go public with the name yet or any other particulars on job numbers, but it's significant," Brad Lacy, president and chief executive officer of the Conway Chamber of Commerce, told council members Tuesday night. "We're still working on some sort of final details."

The resolution to approve the Taxable Industrial Development Revenue Bond said the company is interested in "acquiring, constructing and equipping a distribution facility" on about 95.2 acres in the Conway East Industrial Park.

"This is good news for Conway if we can keep it moving forward," Mayor Bart Castleberry said.

Lacy said they've been working on the project for "about a year." City leaders met with company officials last week, he added, and they hope to close on the project by "early next year."

"For it to not have fallen off the radar in the middle of a global pandemic is pretty amazing," Lacy said. "If we can close the gap, it will be a great addition to the city; a great name to add to the city. We do have a couple of things we're working through."

The city's intent is to assist in the financing of the project by issuing bonds "from time to time," in an amount that the company requests for accomplishing all or any part of the project, according to the resolution.

The resolution said the city intends to enter into a 30-year agreement with the company to accept annual payments from the company in the place of ad valorem taxes.

"This would be the standard industrial revenue bond that the city has typically done on projects like this," Lacy said. "This gives them the property tax abatement of 65% on those improvements -- land, building and equipment."

Lacy told the council that they would likely come back "and maybe need some additional help from Conway Corp. and/or the city on some infrastructure needs."

But the resolution is an important step in the process, Lacy said.

"You guys have done this a number of times before," said Gordon Wilbourn, a public finance attorney with the firm Kutak Rock who advises Conway on bond-related matters. "This is just an inducement resolution. We'll be back in the future with an actual bond ordinance. This is just to express the intent of the city to assist in this project."

Corporations that sell "rural lifestyle products" include stores like Tractor Supply Co. or Atwoods.

There are about 10 Tractor Supply Co. retail stores across the state, including one in Conway.

The retailer -- which was established in 1938 as a mail-order tractor parts business and is now the largest rural lifestyle retailer in the nation with about 1,900 stores -- sells merchandise such as farm and ranch fencing, tanks, sprayers as well as animal feed and supplies, tools and clothing and apparel.

Tractor Supply Co., which is headquartered in Brentwood, Tenn., is registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as incorporated in the state of Delaware, according to the SEC's website.

Atwoods Ranch and Home -- founded in 1960 and based in Enid, Okla. -- has nearly 70 stores in five states: Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. Much like Tractor Supply Co, the store sells farm and ranch supplies, clothing, pet supplies, firearms, clothing and lawn and garden items.

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