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Welcome to our Chamber Connection Newsletter!
In an effort to connect our Chamber Members to valuable news, information, and resources each month we will feature a spotlight topic to better connect our community. This month's topics are workforce and economic development efforts and successes. Next month's topic will feature a Shop Local focus in our region as we kick off our Christmas Shop Local Campaign.
October | 2022 | Workforce and Economic Development
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More From Our Newsletter Sponsor: Ritter Communications
Ritter Communications gives back in celebration of $12 million expansion
Ritter Communications, the largest privately held telecommunications provider serving exclusively in the Mid-South, is completing a $12 million investment and is now offering high-speed internet and telephone services to businesses in Fort Smith, Van Buren, Alma, and Ozark. These combined projects were investments made by Ritter Communications to benefit businesses in the region. The expansion of services in this area is one of several recently completed by Ritter Communications, to bring 100% fiber internet to communities across the River Valley and Northwest Arkansas.

“We understand how critically important high-quality, high-speed internet service is to business and education success in today’s environment,” said Ritter Communications President and CEO Alan Morse. “It’s gone from being a nice thing to have, to being something that you can’t effectively operate without. We are pleased to offer this vital connectivity to local businesses and schools in the River Valley.”

Ritter Communications delivers a full suite of reliable state-of-the-art broadband solutions and telecom services with speeds up to 10 gigabits per second of 100% fiber connectivity. In addition, businesses and schools now have access to the Ritter Communications Data Technology Center, a world-class, highly secure facility equipped with local customer support teams, offering advanced cloud solutions for businesses’ unique information and storage needs.

Construction began in the summer of 2021, and completion is expected in the fall of 2022. In celebration of the completion of construction, Ritter Communications is investing in the community with a $5,000 donation to the Donald W. Reynolds Cancer Support House.

Donald W. Reynolds Cancer Support House Executive Director, Melissa Shaw Sikes said, “We are grateful for Ritter Communications' donation and their investment in the region. This contribution will help us further our mission of providing patients with a variety of services as they navigate a cancer diagnosis.”

A $5,000 donation to the Morgan Nick Foundation was made at the onset of construction and another exciting announcement is yet to come as the company is also donating to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Ritter Communications is a regional telecommunications provider, headquartered in Jonesboro, Arkansas serving more than 112 communities in the region across four states with a full suite of innovative communications services. Business customers can learn more about available services at
The Chamber's Annual Meeting Saw Over 700 People in Attendance
The Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce held its Annual Meeting on Wednesday, October 25, 2022, at the Fort Smith Convention Center. The event recapped the prior year's activities and highlighted key accomplishments that impact the region.

The Annual Meeting welcomed Keynote Speaker, John Simmons. Mr. Simmons is a Founder and Managing Partner of the Roosevelt Group. Attendees learned more about the Foreign Military Sales Project and its importance to our Community.

Mr. Simmons is a founder and managing partner of The Roosevelt Group and represents clients with interests in congressional appropriations, cybersecurity, defense, federal budget, homeland security, space, and technology before Congress and the executive branch. His client base varies across the economic and political spectrum including small R&D startups, large companies targeting government procurement, economic development entities, as well as states and local military support organizations focused on military mission enhancement and growth.
Special thank you to our sponsors for your support of this event!
2022 Manufacturing Week Held October 3rd - 7th
It was important to highlight during Manufacturing Week our region's ability to produce skilled individuals for advanced manufacturing and other positions. These positions will be essential in our ability to thrive for the next 20 years and beyond. Manufacturing represents approximately 20% of our regional Gross Domestic Product in the Fort Smith MSA. More than 18,000 residents work in Advanced Manufacturing in this region.

We are grateful to the manufacturers that allowed us access to learn more about this local industry. A special "thank you" to our First Friday Breakfast manufacturing panel speakers that shared their insights and perspectives on doing business in the advanced manufacturing world of today and what the future holds in this industry during the event.

The panel was moderated by Jason Green, President - Human Resources for ABB's NEMA Motors Division. Panelists included Jennifer Anglin, Pernod Ricard, Senior Director of Operations; Ada Hernandez, Stryten Energy, Human Resources Manager; Chris Krafft, Graphic Packaging, Plant Manager; and Phillip Poston, Hytrol Conveyor Company, Director of Operations.

The Chamber truly appreciates those that helped to make "Manufacturing Week" a success! Headlining Sponsor: University of Arkansas- Fort Smith
Presenting Sponsors: Graphic Packaging & Owens Corning
For a full list of sponsors, click here: 2022 Manufacturing Week Sponsors
The Fort Smith Chamber's Junior Leadership and Career Academy and Leadership Fort Smith Class Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at Careers in Manufacturing and I.T. & Resources for Education Beyond High School
JLCA- Advanced Manufacturing & Technology Session

Presented by: OG&E
Platinum Sponsors: AT&T, Mercy, University of Arkansas-Fort Smith
Session Sponsor: Owens Corning Lunch & Break Sponsor: Georgia Pacific)

The Junior Leadership & Career Academy (JLCA) teaches and mentors a diverse group of High School Freshmen from Sebastian County area schools on the various career opportunities within the region, leadership skills and how to work as a team. Meeting once a month, the students learn about different topics and are introduced to potential employers, business leaders, as well as community leaders in our region.

This month, the class learned about Advanced Manufacturing & Technology. During this session, they heard from many speakers and got to take tours at Bachoco OK Foods and ArcBest Technologies. Industry leaders from Owens Corning, Stryten Energy, and ABB gave presentations where they explained what their companies manufacture, as well as the various career opportunities within their companies. They ended the day with a fun activity where students identified products that are “Made in the River Valley” and then did further research on each company that made the items.
This session opened the eyes of many students to future career opportunities within Advanced Manufacturing and Technology. One student stated, “I really enjoyed this session. There’s more to manufacturing than I thought, and I learned a lot!”

LFS Higher Education & Workforce Development

Presented by: Ritter Communications
Partner Sponsors: Mercy & University of Arkansas- Fort Smith
Session & Lunch Sponsor: UAFS

Leadership Fort Smith is a 10-month program that offers participants a backstage pass to the Fort Smith Region. Sessions cover diverse topics such as healthcare, history, law, government, diversity, education, and more.

In September, the class learned about Higher Education & Workforce Development. They began the day at the Peak Innovation Center, where they learned how students develop real-world skills and earn industry-specific certifications to prepare them for the workforce. They got to see students in action and even watched them program a robot! After that, they learned about the higher education options at the Fort Smith Adult Education Center and Arkansas Tech University- Ozark Campus.
They ended the day at the University of Arkansas- Fort Smith where the class got to tour the campus, as well as hear from speakers in Admissions, Career Services, University Advancement, UAFS Center for Economic Development, and the Adult Degree Completion Program.
2022 Economic Development Success
2022 Annual Meeting Recap of Economic Development Key Figures
The Chamber kicked off 2022 with multiple projects that were carryovers from 2021. Hytrol, Mars, and Owens Corning have been undergoing expansions. Those projects represented approximately $400 Million in capital investments and over 350 new jobs. Just this year, Covia Corporation and the Chamber announced the company’s expansion of $36.5 million with additional jobs. Owens Corning announced a second expansion of $24.5 million and an additional 50 jobs. Rheem is also undergoing an expansion of $19.6 million and they will hire 80 new employees. The Chamber worked with all three of these companies to ensure that Fort Smith was the right choice for their new investment.

Successful Economic Development efforts require a strong network at the state level and with national consultants to win projects. The success that this region has experienced is due to the great partnership that the Chamber has with the AEDC and the City of Fort Smith.
Not only are we seeing growth in manufacturing, and we are also experiencing significant growth in the healthcare sector.

Mercy’s expansion, announced last year, is currently underway. This $162 Million expansion of its emergency room and intensive care unit along with several other projects will enable Mercy to care for more patients in the River Valley. Baptist Health has opened a new clinic “Baptist Health La Clinica del Pueblo” that provides services to our Hispanic community. Baptist has also opened a brand new clinic on Rogers Avenue at the former Bedford's location. The Veteran’s Clinic officially opened its doors in 2022 on Phoenix Avenue. This clinic will serve thousands of veterans in the tri-state area.

The ACHE School of Occupational Therapy welcomed its first class in January. At the same time, renovations continue to take place at the new ACHE Research Institute Health & Wellness Center located in the former Golden Living building.  On Saturday, November 5th, a dedication is scheduled for the “Celebration Garden & Wellness Park” at the ACHE campus.

Last month at the Chamber’s First Friday Breakfast, Dr. Terisa Riley announced the gift of $18.7 million from the Windgate Foundation for the nursing and visual arts programs.

There are many exciting things happening at Ebbing Air Force Base. Many may not realize that Ebbing Air Force base is currently one of the largest employers in our Region with approximately 1,000 service men and women with an economic impact of over $450 million/yr.  Last year, Ebbing Air Force Base was selected as the preferred site for the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. FMS will have a significant impact on the Fort Smith economy for many years to come!
Don't Miss November's First Friday Breakfast
2022 First Friday Breakfast Series: November 4th
Join us to celebrate National Veteran Owned Small Business week and learn more about Veteran Owned Business Resources.

With a specific update on "How verification of veteran-owned small businesses is changing, what to know, and when these changes will go into effect."

Beginning Jan. 1, 2023, verification of veteran-owned small businesses will be handled by the Small Business Administration (SBA). The process is currently overseen by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Center for Verification and Evaluation. What does that mean for your business, and how you can take advantage to this verification to land part of the $24 billion in government contracts were awarded to SDVOSBs.
Welcome New Chamber Members
360 Communications
810 Billiards & Bowling
Arkansas Business Publishing Group
ARVMYP - Arkansas River Valley Manufacturing Young Professionals
Asphalt Concrete Restoration & Supply LLC
Casey Brown - Shelter Insurance
Dakota Highley's Heating and Air Conditioning, LLC.
Dbl D Kustomz
El Olvido Mexican Restaurant
Fianna Nutrition
Fort Smith Museum
Garrison Goodies
House Of Barbers
Onin Staffing
Onyx Aesthetics and Wellness
Powersports Listings Mergers & Acquisitions
Randall Baker Agency (Sallisaw)
Randall Baker Agency (Roland)
River City Counseling
Rouse Custom Homes
Walmart Health Center
WorkSource, Inc.
Upcoming Chamber Connection Newsletters
November 17, 2022 - Shop Local
December 29, 2022 - Membership
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