Tech Park travails: Champions and obstacles for a downtown site | Arkansas Blog

Tech Park travails: Champions and obstacles for a downtown site

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DOWNTOWN: Suddenly, a popular choice for the Little Rock Tech Park. But there are complications.
  • DOWNTOWN: Suddenly, a popular choice for the Little Rock Tech Park. But there are complications.

If you listen to our podcast you heard me say yesterday that I'm not sure the best option for the Little Rock Technology Park misadventure isn't pulling the plug. The city has other good uses for the $22 million and it isn't obligated to spend the money on a tech park.

The ball of confusion grew yesterday with a lot of new reporting by the Democrat-Gazette's Claudia Lauer:

* Mayor Mark Stodola is calling for still more delay in choosing a site. Still reaching for a consensus, I think.

* Stodola, Gov. Beebe and Rod Ford, the head of a new digital marketing business locating downtown, called for starting the venture downtown. This came not many hours after UALR Chancellor Joel Anderson's presentation of a vision of a science research facility on the UALR campus.

* City Director Joan Adcock has blustered into the fray in her usual pugnacious style. After earlier refusing to support Director Ken Richardson's effort to make it illegal to use eminent domain to take residential property for such a park, she now proposes to do just that. UALR has said it won't do that. But Adcock also proposes the legally dubious measure of preventing a private property owner from terminating a lease with a renter to sell his property to someone for the tech park. 'Taking' anyone?

* UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, whose institution holds a couple of seats on the Tech Park board, says he favors a downtown startup.

Some simple questions:

* Did Rod Ford need a tech park to build his business?

* Did San Francisco build a building  to attract all the knowledge-age zillionaires who've flocked to the Mission District and other places in the Bay Area to set up shop?

* In a city with a truly strong mayor, would there really be any question where the city would spend its $22 million? 

* Does anybody in the city have the courage to stand up to Mary Good and Dickson Flake? These two tech park board members are inalterably opposed to a downtown location, mainly because they were denied their desire to build it in a poor residential neighborhood between UALR and UAMS.

* Has anybody else read any of the recent reporting of how entrepreneurial hives get started? Has anybody else noticed that every one of them involves private venture capital? Has anybody else noticed not a single dime of private money has yet appeared in Little Rock?

* Aren't you glad you're not Jay Chessir, the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce boss? More and more, he looks like the swing vote on giving a solid consensus to a downtown site. But that would mean crossing Good, who's accustomed to getting her way, and Flake, a longtime chamber power who dreamed up this idea in the first place, but whose old school ideas seem woefully out of date. Noted: A good chunk of Chessir's salary comes from $350,000 the city of Little Rock sends his employer in tax money every year. (Unconstitutionally, I happen to think.)




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