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North Little Rock will get a return on the $275,000 previously allocated to the Economic Development Corp. in this year's budget by transferring that agency's executive director to city employment as of July 1, Mayor Joe Smith told council members Monday evening.

The City Council approved 7-0, as part of legislation regarding personnel actions, to add Todd Larson, the agency's executive director since 2000, to the city's administration department. The department includes the mayor, the eight council members and the mayor's staff. Council member Maurice Taylor was absent.

The nonprofit Economic Development Corp. will be closed, though Larson, its only employee, will keep his office in the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce headquarters, 100 Main St. Larson's annual salary will be $83,000, Smith said after the meeting.

The North Little Rock City Council allocated $275,000 when it approved this year's city budget in December. With the upcoming move of Larson into city government employment, that money moves with him, Smith told council members.

"It will stay in our checking account rather than in the Economic Development checking account," the mayor said.

Larson's duties will also expand under the new arrangement, including grant writing and helping the mayor and Danny Bradley, the mayor's chief of staff, with projects, Smith said. Larson has already been helping the city apply for a federal economic development grant for a redevelopment of Sixth Street that could save the city $400,000-$500,000, Smith said.

"There are a lot of things Danny and I were not able to get to," Smith said. "I told Todd he will have to wear a lot of hats."

Authorizing allocation to Larson's office for this year came after state voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2016 that restored a means for municipalities to pay a chamber of commerce or private promoters for economic development services. The statewide vote was in response to a Pulaski County judge's ruling in 2015 that Little Rock and North Little Rock couldn't legally pay for such economic development services. The ruling determined that the services provided in exchange for such payments couldn't be proven.

The new law, which took effect Aug. 1, 2017, requires city council approval for all contracts for economic development services or economic development projects.

Metro on 06/12/2018

Print Headline: NLR to close economic agency; its director to join city staff

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