Announcement on biotech company set next week

A biotechnology company that was offered incentives from the Jefferson County Economic Development Corp. to locate at the Pine Bluff Arsenal will hold a press conference next week to officially announce its location in Jefferson County.

According to an announcement from the Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County, the press conference will begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the arsenal. Company officials and local business leaders will be there to provide more information about the project, about which details have not been made public.

In January, the Economic Development Corp., which was created to administer the three-eighths cent sales tax for economic development approved by voters in 2011, offered an unnamed biotech company $73,000 to locate in vacant laboratory facilities at the arsenal.

Corporation Chairman Geroge Makris said these new jobs will always be remembered as special because they were the first to be attracted to the county with incentives from the economic development tax. Makris said the company will create exactly the kind of jobs that economic development officials were hoping to attract. They have high hopes for the Arsenal-Bioplex-National Center for Toxicological Research area to become a center for technology-based jobs.

“This company has the opportunity — not just by themselves — to make this area grow because they’ve got some affiliated businesses that could really do well by locating here,” Makris said. “This is exactly the kind of anchor project that you want to land, and we’re awfully lucky.”

At a meeting of the corporation in March, Makris said federal statutes prohibit political subdivisions, such as the corporation, from giving money directly to private companies, but does permit them to pay for renovations to the facility at the arsenal.

During a meeting in January, Makris said the jobs created by the company would be highly skilled, paying an average of more than $31 per hour. The company anticipates having less than a dozen employees in Jefferson County initially, but Makris said he he hopes that figure would increase to about 300 by 2016.

At that same meeting, Makris said the company “performs a basic testing service that is necessary for a lot of food companies who are their clients and we think that long term, this company being in the arsenal-(National Center for Toxicological Research)-Bioplex area would give us a great foundation for recruiting some other companies to come in that need their services.”

Neither Makris or Lou Ann Nisbett, executive director of the Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County have identified the company, referring to it only as “Project 1110.”