The Pine Bluff Aviation Commission accepted James Workman Jr.’s bid to be the farmer to lease farm property at Pine Bluff Regional Airport Grider Field. Commissioners Dr. Michele Pashkevich, Harvey Sizemore, Rocky Thornburgh, Tommy Palmer, Ken Johnson and Kenneth Collins voted Thursday for a motion to this effect. They heard from Pine Bluff Regional Airport Grider Field Manager Doug Hale.
Hale said the airport property is about 850 acres, of which 500 acres are farm fields. The airport leases the farm property to a farmer to generate revenue.
Hale issued a request for proposal and four farming parties responded with the following bid amounts. Workman submitted a bid of $78,000 per year, Charles Hooker submitted a bid of $53,555 per year, the combined team of Matt Tucker and Todd Dutton submitted a bid of $47,000 per year, and Tad Thornton submitted a bid of $45,000 per year.
Hale said that Workman will sign a lease for the period covering Nov. 1, 2017, to Dec. 31, 2018. Workman will have the option to extend the lease for an additional two years. Jerry Conley Jr. is the current farmer tenant who is leasing the farm property and is paying about $39,000 per year. Conley grows corn, soybeans, rice and winter wheat.
In other news, Hale gave an update on the Armory building at Pine Bluff Regional Airport Grider Field. The airport is looking to lease this building to someone to generate revenue. Hale said that he does not have a current tenant for this building.
At the September meeting of the Aviation Commission, Harvey Brock applied on behalf of LS Tractor Company to lease space at the Armory building for $200 per month. Hale said that LS Tractor Company hired a new chief executive officer who instructed Brock not to sign the lease pending further evaluation of the company as a whole.
“Harvey is a little disappointed as well because he was told to proceed with the lease,” Hale said. “He sent out invitations to LS Tractor mechanics to come here for training and he has done a lot of work expecting to proceed with this.”
“This is a South Korean-based company,” Hale said. “LS Tractors USA is based in North Carolina. [Harvey Brock] is in North Carolina this week and hoping to come back with a report.”
Ken Johnson is chairman of the commission. He asked Hale if the aviation commissioners should contact someone to express their interest in leasing space to LS Tractor Company. Hale responded that he wants “a signature on a line.”
“The facility fits their business,” Hale said. “Harvey wants it here.”
“We were all optimistic,” Johnson said.
Palmer asked if Jefferson County Economic Development was offering any incentive to LS Tractor Company. Hale responded “initially, they were.”
“That is the whole reason we have them: to help bring industry in,” Palmer said. “Let’s put our tax dollars to work.”
Commissioner Keidra Burrell arrived shortly after the meeting had ended. Burrell asked Hale to summarize key discussions from the meeting and Hale complied.