Starting in January, the Arkansas Venture Center will be the Little Rock Technology Park’s tenant in its temporary space in the Block 2 Building on Markham, where it will offer its pre-accelerator and incubation programs for early-stage businesses and its coding classes. In exchange for use of the space, AVC will pay $20,000 toward the park lease ($6,500) and utilities. Brent Birch, director of the park, said the larger benefit for the Tech Park will be to sustain the current momentum of interest in tech startups while the Tech Park works toward a permanent home and “to show the tech park is happening.”
The board of the Tech Park agreed to the arrangement in a special meeting at the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce Wednesday night.
Other revenue will be generated by workspace leases at $150 a month. The city is picking up the tab for the lease of the space through June, a cost of $47,808 for the first half of 2015. July-December renta is estimated at $53,784 and operational expenses at $18,804 for the entire year. The park board anticipates “incubator desk” revenues of $21,600, and that income coupled with AVC’s $20,000 should cover all but about
$5,500 $44,488 of the 2015 lease cost. if my reading of the budget is correct. AVC head Lee Watson said he has commitments from seven companies to lease desks in Block 2, which was music to the board’s ears.
Board Chairman Dr. Mary Good caused a few nervous chuckles when said she wanted AVC to add to its board representatives from park sponsors the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. In fact, she said “it is essential” that the tech park sponsors be represented. She even intimated that it could be a condition of the lease before board member Jay Chesshir reined her in, noting the Tech Park board could make no such demand on the private nonprofit AVC. Even Dr. Good laughed, but you could tell she absolutely expects AVC to make room for UAMS and UALR.
Good also suggested AVC investigate the research going on at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, which is not a sponsor of the park but has committed funding. Watson and others replied that since AVC’s new “full stack” engineering program will be led by Mark Doderer, husband of ACH CEO Marci Doderer, the two entities have a good line of communication open already.