Little Rock Tech Park Board To Pause Site Selection, Review Purpose

May 9, 2013

The Little Rock Technology Park Authority Board decided at its May meeting to meet again in two weeks to discuss the tech park's purpose and which types of businesses might take advantage of it.
Credit Nathan Vandiver / KUAR

The Little Rock Technology Park Authority Board is putting off selection of a site for the city’s tech park in order to discuss the specific types of research businesses that might be attracted to it.

The main topic of discussion for the Little Rock Tech Park Board has focused on site selection, but at its meeting Wednesday, members began delving into the basic purpose for the park and whether they need to consider two sites rather than one.

”That’s what I’ve been waiting for for months, to have a discussion as opposed to move on to agenda items,” board member CJ Duvall said.

Duvall was responding to board member Jay Chessir who had just described one of the board’s problems: that it’s trying to develop a park that can serve both bio-medical research and a silicon valley style tech startup incubator.

He said the bio-medical facility would need to be close to a university and would be much more expensive to build while the tech startup facility wouldn’t need as expensive a building and could be many places but would be better suited for a walkable urban setting.

The discussion followed a letter from Mayor Mark Stodola, sent to the board Tuesday, that questioned why the board is considering yet another site to the three it already has before it and that the group should reexamine it’s objective.

Chair Mary Good said after the meeting that the Mayor’s letter didn’t prompt the discussion. She did say the discussion made for a productive meeting.

“Well, you know, this is a difficult process and I’m quite pleased with the discussion that we had today. I think we’re finally moving in the right direction,” Good said.

Duvall, who has pushed for more open discussion in the meetings said after the meeting that the back and forth will make for better-informed decisions.

“I believe site selection right now is just tabled so we can have robust conversations about what is it we really want to accomplish and how will we accomplish it, because the site then will follow,” Duvall said.

He agreed it was a productive meeting.

“Lots of progress was made today and the progress took the form in one: it wasn’t a 60 minute meeting, we had conversation, there was discourse, we had follow up questions, we deviated from the agenda so we could have room for those questions; that’s the way this meeting needs to go.

Duvall said opening the discussion to the possibility of two sites was progress as well. Taking the conversation back to basics could mean more time before Little Rock gets its Tech Park, but Good said there’s no hard deadlines.

“The activity level of innovation in central Arkansas is on an uprise, and my opinion is that there’s some urgency of catching that rise as it’s going up,” Good said.