A&P denies funding again for O’Reilly convention center

A&P denied funding again for convention center
Letter to A&P Commission from O'Reilly Hospitality
Letter to A&P Commission from O'Reilly Hospitality
Statement from Mayor Harold Perrin
Statement from Mayor Harold Perrin
Statement from Arkansas State University President Dr. Charles Welch
Statement from Arkansas State University President Dr. Charles Welch

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The Jonesboro Advertising and Promotion Commission denied funding to O'Reilly Hospitality for a second time Wednesday.

O'Reilly Hospitality is one of two groups planning to build a convention center and hotel in Jonesboro.

Back in March, O'Reilly and the Keller family presented their projects to the A&P Commission.

O'Reilly plans to build an Embassy Suites hotel and convention center on Arkansas State's Campus while the Keller family plans to build a Hyatt Place hotel and convention center on the south side of Jonesboro.

Both groups made a motion to get $300,000 from the commission for a three-year period, but A&P voted 3 to 2 to give the money to the Keller project.

O'Reilly Hospitality sent a letter to the commission asking for a second request.

They asked for a 3 percent rebate for a three-year period starting in 2018.

A&P denied the request, however, saying they do not have the funding for both centers, and they already committed to Keller.

"We have a commitment to them, and we don't have a lot of extra money," Chairman Thom Beasley said. "O'Reilly say they are coming, so we have two hotel and convention centers possibly going to be here, but we have already aligned ourselves after a bidding process with the Keller family."

Beasley said since they have committed to Keller, the commission must make sure that hotel and convention center is successful.

"We have to be sure we have the funds we can get them so they can start advertising, so when they open their doors hopefully in November of 2017 that they will already have conventions booked," Beasley said.

The commission agreed to table the request for discussion later.

'We don't want to do anything to harm anybody, but we made a commitment to the Kellers as our first obligation as our hotel and convention center, and if in the future we can do something else then the other group can come back to us," Beasley said. "A&P takes lots of requests that we sometimes have to say no, one because the only thing that funds A&P for the city of Jonesboro is the hotel sales tax."

The commission will talk about O'Reilly later in 2017 when they have a better idea of funds they have available.

Before the discussion started, the Jonesboro Communications Director Bill Campbell spoke on behalf of Mayor Harold Perrin asking for the funding for O'Reilly.

"The mayor believes in Arkansas State University and wants to support its project," Campbell said. "We understand the A&P has difficult decisions, and the mayor cannot make that decision for them or influence that decision, but that being said we want to support anyone who does business in Jonesboro."

Mayor Perrin originally said he would support any convention center that comes to Jonesboro.

"The first group that came was Keller, and he threw his support behind them," Campbell said. "Now O'Reilly says they are coming anyway, and he throws his support behind them too. He does not control the A&P commission, but this afternoon he asked for the A&P commission to please find a way to support this group."

Campbell said the mayor was not happy with the decision to not fund O'Reilly.

"The mayor is a little disappointed that a conclusion wasn't received today and a decision to help in some way," Campbell said.

Campbell said the mayor supports economic development and development at Arkansas State.

"Jonesboro cannot exist without Arkansas State and Arkansas State cannot exist without Jonesboro, so there is not production in having any ill will between the two," Campbell said. "We will continue to try to work together."

Arkansas State also made a statement before the meeting, saying the school appreciates the mayor's support.

Arkansas State is not funding the O'Reilly convention center, but the school does support the project and believes it is good for the university, Jonesboro and the entire region.

Copyright 2016 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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