FORT SMITH–Fort Smith Regional Alliance kicked off their 2012 General Board Meetings with a meeting in Mulberry. It followed Tuesday’s big announcement of plans for a new plant location in the city by American Vegetable Soybean and Edamame Inc.
The new edamame-processing facility will initially employ 40 to 60 workers. Meeting attendees were excited to learn more and celebrate with their regional partner.
While attendees enjoyed an edamame appetizer with three recipe samples, Committee Chairs provided reports to the organization. Committees reviewed their 2012 objectives, devised an implementation plan and shared their reports on these topics with the Alliance. Fort Smith Regional Alliance Chairman, Fred Williams, presided over the meeting. Highlights included:
· Doris Tate, the Community Development Committee Chair, provided a questionnaire for each community partner to complete. This questionnaire will identify areas that need improvement so the committee can determine how to help.
· Lundy Kiger delivered the Governmental Affairs Committee report, sharing that this committee is actively participating in all efforts regarding the 188th. Other topics being monitored are I-49, Chaffee Crossing and governmental issues involving quality of life improvements. Arkansas State Representative, Tracy Pennartz, provided an update on possible funding for Arkansas Regional Economic Development Partnerships (REDP). The Joint Budget Committee has approved her proposal that a $250,000 budget for REDP be made available via AEDC grants. Pennartz will keep the group updated on this issue and others in the upcoming fiscal session.
· The Marketing Committee report was provided by Tony Wilson, Committee Chair. This group has prioritized a Regional Alliance website and monthly email newsletters as top priorities. Both projects will launch this month.
· Bob Neissl, Product Development Committee Chair, recapped the group’s success in 2011 with a focus on updating the Arkansas Site Selection website with all available regional properties. These efforts will continue in 2012 and are focused on the same initiative for Oklahoma.
· Jennifer Boulden, Chair of the Tourism Committee, delivered an aggressive plan for 2012. Projects underway include a regional tourism map, quarterly tourism email newsletter, the development of a tourism database, exploring the possibility of coordinated signage for attractions on highways and interstates throughout the region and supporting current and upcoming riverfront projects.
“I am so pleased with the progress we are making with economic development in our region. All the communities are working together to help bring jobs and improve the quality of life right here at home,” said Williams. “Good things are happening and will continue to happen through the ongoing efforts of the Fort Smith Regional Alliance.”
Paul Harvel with the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce provided an update on recent efforts work being done for both states in several communities to help assist in creating and maintain jobs in the Alliance region.
Mayor Gary Baxter of Mulberry concluded the meeting with a presentation on Mulberry. Nature, business and progress are alive in this city. Construction for a new city park and new Senior Center and Safe Room are underway, as well as the new AVS plant.
In 2011, the Alliance rotated meetings throughout the region, giving each community partner the opportunity to showcase their city and assets. Throughout that process, Alliance members learned more about their partner’s community which strengthened the unity of the organization. In 2012, the Alliance is moving their meetings to a more centralized location to ease the drive time to and from meetings.
The Fort Smith Regional Alliance is a collaborative bi-state organization of communities within a 50 mile radius of Fort Smith that includes six counties in Arkansas – Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Logan, Sebastian and Scott – and two counties in Oklahoma – LeFlore and Sequoyah. It is currently comprised of 14 communities: Alma, Altus, Booneville, Charleston, Clarksville, Greenwood, Fort Smith, Mulberry, Ozark, Paris, Poteau, Roland, Sallisaw and Van Buren. Alliance members are working together as a unified community of businesses and residents to develop and enhance the bi-state region’s economic climate and quality of life.