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   After three years of planning and waiting, North Little Rock has finally received federal funding for a 262-acre industrial park in the Interstate 440 area.

   At a May 5 press conference at the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce office, Mayor Pat Hays formally announced the city received a $465,600 Economic Development Administration grant for the industrial park.

   “When we have had the national spotlight focused on Central Arkansas, it is nice to add … the resources for industry to expand and relocate in Central Arkansas,” Hays said.

   The city must raise $310,400 to qualify for the grant, bringing the total project cost to $776,000.

   Benefits of the park are expected to include new jobs, expansion of the tax base, increased sales of North Little Rock’s electricity to businesses and a greater availability of industrial sites, Hays said.

   The property on which the industrial park will be located is bounded by Interstate 440 to the east, eastern Rose City to the west, Faulkner Lake Road to the north and Highway 165 to the south. It lies near the North Little Rock Waste-Water Utility.

   An entrance to the industrial park is planned off Faulkner Lake Road. The city will bring street, water, electricity and sewer services to the area, Hays said. Plans call for having the industrial park’s infrastructure in place by March 1, 1994.

   Hays said in July 1992 that revenues used to fund the project will include $300,000 from the Electric Department budget to extend a transmission line to the property; $60,000 to $70,000 in the waste water utility costs to bring a sewer line to the property; and $50,000 from the General Fund.

   Hays and Chamber of Commerce President Lyndell Lay lobbied for project funding through U.S. Rep. Ray Thornton’s office and the Clinton White House.

   The Central Arkansas Planning and Development Office provided technical assistance, Hays said. The North Little Rock Industrial Development Corporation and the Chamber of Commerce also worked on the project.

Jobs

   Three companies have already committed to relocating to the industrial park. The companies employ 175 workers presently, but with expansion made possible by the park, an additional 323 new jobs are projected, Hays said. Private investment should surpass $4.4 million with a combined annual payroll in excess of $3.1 million, he said.

   Hays said an additional firm has committed to move to the industrial park site, but he would not elaborate.

   RAM Industries and RDC Sales in Little Rock will bring in 150 jobs combined. RAM Industries manufactures erasable message boards used in schools and offices. RDC Sales is a marketing company of RAM Industries.

   These two companies must be operating at the industrial park by February 1994, thus construction is expected to begin by July 1 of this year, Chamber of Commerce Director Stephanie Milligan said.

   A third firm, Audio International of North Little Rock, designs and manufactures corporate aircraft cabin control and entertainment systems, including audio and video equipment.

   Tracy Runions, an Audio International administrative assistant, said the firm needs to expand for additional room and a larger employee base. The company, co-owned by Wayne Ritchie and Rick Marsh, currently employs 25 workers.

   The 27.5 acres of land in the industrial park on which these three companies will build is offered at no charge in exchange for their commitment on the grant application. The grant’s timing was crucial due to the cyclical nature of the three firms. Milligan said if the grant had been approved a week later, it is possible one of the firms might have had to look elsewhere.

   Milligan said the process for the grant lasted approximately one year longer than originally expected. One company initially committed to the project backed out because of the wait, she said.

Land

   The 262-acre tract on which the park will sit is part of a joint marketing effort between property owners and the city, Hays said. Land owners donated 62.5 acres to the city, including a road and right of way for the infrastructure, he said.

   “This is genuinely a public-private partnership,” Hays said.

   Milligan said the property owners signed a property evaluation agreement which assures the remaining land will be sold at its current value for the next four and a half years to allow the property price to remain stable and affordable. All of the land is expected to be sold within four and a half years, she said. The land will be marketed by the Hathaway Group.

   Milligan said the park will house industry compatible with North Little Rock and the environment, and will become a part of the North Little Rock School District tax base.

   In making the proposal, which originally called for a 350-acre tract of land, Milligan consulted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to save area wetlands. She said three sections of wetlands were eliminated from the project to bring the acreage down to 262 acres.

   There are also hopes to save a grove of pecan trees sitting on the land, Milligan said. A portion of the grove has already been designated as the building spot for one company. Trees will be replanted for each tree removed, Milligan said. The remainder of the grove may become part of an employee park area.


This business article appeared in the May 1993 North Little Rock Times.