Vivione Bioscience and L&R Distributing meet tax board requirements for incentives

The Economic Development Corp. of Jefferson County has approved the final incentive payment to Vivione Biosciences, located at the Pine Bluff Arsenal, and the first payment to L&R Distributors of Pine Bluff from the sales tax approved by county voters for economic development.

Both met their requirements for hiring and maintaining operations to qualify for incentives, said board Chairman George Makris during a meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Makris said Vivione “is quite happy to be here and looking to expand.”

The company initially received $73,000 from the corporation, also known as the tax board, in February 2012, with those funds being used to pay for a part of improvements to the company’s facilities at the Arsenal.

As far as L&R is concerned, Makris said the company “sent us the name of every person who had worked there, the number of hours they worked and their salaries.”

The agreement with the tax board on Feb. 26, 2013, called for an investment of $500,000 by L&R. That money was used to buy equipment from Stephen L. La France Pharmacy Inc.

It was to be repaid by hiring 119 full-time permanent employees during the first year of operation by L&R, and according to the credit letter, the company actually hired 122.5 people. The agreement provided that for each employee hired, $2,500 would be credited to the company.

The letter from the board indicated that L&R would receive a total of $306,250 from the corporation toward their overall debt.

Makris said he and others are looking at “a couple of prospects for possible incentives, but we’re not far enough along to discuss those.”

In another matter, Makris said collections of the three-eights cent sales tax approved by county voters in 2011 were “down a bit but we’re still fairly stable.”

Last month, $309,170 was collected, compared with $317,621 for February 2013. Since July 1, the tax has generated $1,715,587, compared with $1,739,963 from July 1, 2012 through February 2013.

Asked if the bad weather had affected tax collections, Markris said collections are two months behind, meaning the amount paid in February was from December.

“We haven’t seen what effect the weather is going to have on January and February collections,” Makris said.

Makris said that the Arkansas Division of Legislative Audit has made a second request to Jefferson County for a contract between the corporation and the county showing that the corporation is providing a service to the county, but Makris said such a contract is not necessary.

He said Jane Dickey, a Little Rock attorney, has advised that a resolution adopted by the Quorum Court in 2013 and the Articles of Incorporation and by-laws of the corporation “constitute all the legal authority necessary.”

Unlike other counties that have economic development taxes, Makris said Jefferson County does not have any control of the money collected from the tax.

“It’s pass through money,” board member Scott McGeorge said.