LR Tech Park board raises director’s salary as second phase planning continues

by Wesley Brown (wesbrocomm@gmail.com) 143 views 

The Little Rock Technology Park on Wednesday (Oct. 10) unanimously approved a 5.7% raise for Executive Director Brent Birch, along with an opportunity to pocket an extra $5,000 annual bonus if he completes professional development study to bulk up his managerial skills.

The seven-person board, led by Chairman John Burgess, bumped the annual salary of the downtown nonprofit’s lone employee to $140,000 following a 30-minute executive session to discuss Birch’s yearly work performance. A year ago, the Tech Park board approved a 12% raise for Birch, upping his annual salary from $120,000 to $132,000.

Birch has received at least a 5% increase in annual salary in each of the years since he was hired in July 2014. In his first year on the job, the Tech Park chief executive received a 5% raise, followed by his largest salary boost of 15% in October 2016, which then raised his compensation to $120,000.

Board director Kevin Zaffaroni praised Birch’s work ethic and oversight of the downtown startup incubator that is near full occupancy. Earlier this summer, Birch and the board began preparation for the Tech Park’s unfinanced second phase, a planned five-floor, 83,000 square foot development adjacent to the current 38,000-square foot Main Street headquarters.

“The role of the Tech Park is changing, and we wanted to make sure that we have an executive director that is also changing and has the necessary skills and professional development necessary to carry out our mission,” Zaffaroni explained after the board’s executive session.

In early August, the Tech Park board agreed to hire CDI Contractors LLC as the construction manager for the next phase. WER Architects of Little Rock was hired as the architect for the second iteration of the tech village to be built in the constricted space between the KATV Channel 7 building at Fourth and Main Streets and the Tech Park headquarters at 417 Main St.

Birch said he expects negotiations with CDI to be complete by the end of October. He said the executives with the Little Rock construction firm, which is a subsidiary of Dillard’s Inc., have already sat in on planning meetings over the past several weeks with WER Architects to discuss preliminary design concepts for the second phase of the multi-stage project. The Tech Park officially opened for business in April 2017. The first phase was largely funded by a $22.5 million sales tax referendum approved by Little Rock voters in 2011 and a $17.1 million loan from a local banking consortium.

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