AP News

Beebe seeks to lure $1 billion project to Ark.


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe is seeking to attract a $1 billion business project to the state, a spokesman for the state's economic development office said after the governor asked lawmakers Tuesday for their help in attracting the investment to Arkansas.

Addressing a joint session of the Legislature, Beebe said the economic development project was "one of the biggest" the state had ever seen and told lawmakers he would need their help to bring it to Arkansas.

"Details on that project are still to come," Beebe told the House and Senate in his State of the State address.

The project involves attracting a company that will invest more than $1 billion to set up new business in the state, according to Economic Development Commission spokesman Joe Holmes. Both Holmes and Beebe would not provide any further information about the project Tuesday, saying that details were still being worked out.

"We feel very positive about it, and we want to get it done." Holmes said. "Now it's just about i's being dotted and t's being crossed."

Some of the funding for the project will come from state-backed bonds, which the Legislature needs to approve, according to Holmes.

Beebe said after his speech Tuesday that he would likely ask the Legislature to approve financing for the project under Amendment 82 of the state constitution. That provision allows legislators to authorize the state's Development Finance Authority to issue bonds for the project.

Such financing would be limited to 5 percent of state general revenues collected last fiscal year, which would amount to roughly $235 million.

Holmes said the goal of the project is to create jobs, but he declined to say what type of company the state was trying to attract. Under state law, Amendment 82 financing can be approved for a wide variety of projects, such as a manufacturing plant or a corporate headquarters.

Senate President Michael Lamoureux, R-Russellville, said whether lawmakers would support legislation tied to the project would depend on the specifics but that there is interest in drawing more business to the state.

"One thing I think we're all eager to do is bring jobs to Arkansas, no matter what part of the state it is, so I think people are very eager to work with the governor on bringing jobs here," he said. "But also they'll want to do their due diligence and make sure it's the best use of state resources."

The state has not used Amendment 82 financing to attract business to the state since voters approved the measure in 2004.

In his State of the State, Beebe said economic development and education remain his top priorities in his final regular session as governor.


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