JOB DREAMS DASHED: Land given to Czech gunmaker has reverted to city ownership since construction didn’t begin.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported this morning on Amazon’s purchase of Little Rock Port property for additional parking lot space for the big distribution center nearing completion, but buried bigger news in one sentence five paragraphs deep in the article:

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As predicted here back in February, the heralded plans for a Czech gun factory at the port apparently died June 1 when the company failed to meet a deadline to begin construction. The land reverted to city ownership, the D-G reported.

Under a deal struck with the city and the state in 2019, CZ-USA was given 73 acres worth $1.7 million at the port and a promise of almost $22 million in state incentives to build a headquarters and factory at the port. Under an amended agreement, it promised to begin construction by June 1 this year. A variety of difficulties arose, including financing and CZ’s acquisition of an existing manufacturer in another state.

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Amazon is buying 15 of the acres to add 185 parking spaces to almost 1,800 existing slots. It will pay $40,000 an acre. CZ got the land for free.

The governor, mayor and others gathered to cheer the CZ announcement in 2019, saying it would employ 565 people in a $90 million facility.

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In February, when the Port Authority heard about more delays in the project some mention was made of the potential of luring gun manufacturing in the future, such as the Colt operation CZ acquired. But it would require striking a new deal now.

This factory — along with the Amazon project (which the state played no role in luring)  — was among the credits cited by Hutchinson in 2020 as justifying the continuing series of $50,000-plus bonuses for Commerce Secretary Mike Preston. Other credits were the now-defunct paper mill in Clark County and a textile project at Forrest City.