The Jonesboro Advertising and Promotion Commission has decided to give its support for helping fund a hotel and convention center in Jonesboro. The Commission on Friday decided that it would provide tax rebates for the O’Reilly Hospitality Management’s project to place a 202-bed Embassy Suites Hotel, a Houlihan’s Restaurant and a 40,000-square foot convention center on the campus of Arkansas State University. The commission’s decision does not give money to the project up front, but it will give a three-percent A&P tax rebate over a ten-year period once the project is up and running. The funding would stop after either after ten years or the rebates cap $2.5 million, whichever comes first.
Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin was attending the National League of Cities convention in Charlotte, North Carolina Friday when the decision was made by the A&P Commission. In a statement released to the media, Perrin says, “One of my earliest goals as mayor was for Jonesboro and Northeast Arkansas to have a convention center. As you know, it’s been quite a journey. But I am extremely pleased to find out today that we will have an Embassy Suites and convention center coming.”
Perrin said that many state associations have asked to have their conventions and meetings in Jonesboro, but the space was not available. Perrin says, “In the future, we will be able to bring them to Jonesboro, which will showcase out city and contribute significantly to our growing economy.”
In February 2015, the O’Reilly project and a second project by the Northeast Arkansas Hotel and Convention Center were vying for funds from the A&P commission. NAHCC CEO Chris Keller presented plans for a 165-bed Hyatt Place Hotel and an adjoining 78,000-square foot convention center that would be build off Browns Lane near Interstate 555. At that time, the A&P Commission gave the Keller project $75,000 in money up front of use in the construction of the project. Ground was broken at the project site, but work at the site was delayed due to funds not being received from its primary investor.
Earlier this year, the A&P Commission wanted an update on the project and the status of the money that was given to the project. After learning of the funding delays, the commission asked City Attorney Carol Duncan to draft a letter asking for the return of the $75,000 until the issues were resolved. The money was returned to the commission.
In May, the commission decided not to throw its support toward any hotel and convention center project. Chairman Jerry Morgan stated that any center would have to be almost complete before funding could be considered in the future. The decision made Friday has a key stipulation that the O’Reilly project will receive the tax rebates, only if the project can start in 90 days. The O’Reilly group has stated that it can move forward in that time frame. As for the Keller project, that project is still set to occur in Jonesboro, but no word at this time as when main project work will occur.