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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 legislative updates. Next month's topic will feature a Shop Local focus in our region.
March | 2021 | Workforce and Economic Development, & Legislative Affairs
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Workforce Development Significant Efforts Realized
2021 Signing Day Efforts Underway
The 2021 Signing Day process began in January with the Chamber connecting to school districts in our region and with the University of Arkansas Fort Smith to engage students in preparing for the third annual Signing Day applications. 

Seniors (graduating in 2021) from Fort Smith Public Schools, Future School of Fort Smith, Van Buren School District, Greenwood School District, Alma School District, and the UAFS were encouraged through print advertisement, social media, and in-school communication channels to participate in a professional development series to help prepare them for this years Signing Day applications with participating companies.

Professional Development series includes:
• Business Communication and Social Media
• Resume Workshop
• Interview Workshop and Mock Interviews

Students will have an opportunity to complete applications for job openings starting next week with interviews with employers occurring mid-April.
The Fort Smith Chamber is currently seeking area companies interested in connecting to this high school graduate and UAFS certification and associate degree completers to participate in the matching of jobs and talent for this opportunities starting in June of 2021.

There is no cost to the companies participating. Sponsorship opportunities available for additional exposure for companies participating. Companies must indicate they want to participate by Friday, March 26th by emailing or calling Dawn Turner at dturner@fortsmithchamber.com 479-783-3111, or completing this
Click the above video for more information about our 2021 Signing Day for Employers Interested in Participating
Fort Smith Chamber in Partnership with University of Arkansas -Fort Smith Launch CareerReadyFortSmith.com Free Job Search Engine
Area Businesses Continue Their Support for PEAK Innovation Center 
Baptist Health and Mercy Fort Smith have announced their collaborative investment in Healthcare Sciences programming at the Peak Innovation Center. This $1 Million gift will directly impact the quality and capacity of healthcare related Career and Technical Education in the Fort Smith region.

Contributing $500,000 each, their investment will contribute to expanded programming and square footage as well as the purchase of state-of-the-art equipment for the Healthcare Sciences programs that will be housed at Peak. The Healthcare Sciences wing will include a high-fidelity simulation lab with testing room, three flexible classrooms, a responsive medicine classroom, and collaborative lab spaces.

"We are excited to be partnering with Fort Smith Public Schools and Baptist Health to provide local students with the opportunity to learn more about health care," said Ryan Gehrig, president of Mercy Hospital Fort Smith. "Health care workers are a vital part of all communities, and this innovative educational partnership will help strengthen our workforce and provide opportunities for students in the River Valley. It's a tremendous honor to be involved with this initiative."

Collaborating with community organizations is in line with the mission and vision of Baptist Health," said Kim Miller, president of Baptist Health Western Region. "We are very excited to support Peak Innovation Center and invest in our future workforce. Our desire is to support lifelong learning that will strengthen our community as we place great value in our next generation of leaders."
UAFS Named Newest Regional Location of the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center
The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith recently received just over $78,000 in funding to launch the newest regional office of the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center.

Funding for regional offices is provided by the U.S. Small Business Administration and administered by the lead center located at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Dr. Latisha Settlage, Interim Dean of the College of Business, led efforts at UAFS to secure funding for the Fort Smith office and believes that the ASBTDC office will be an exceptional resource to the greater Fort Smith region, “UAFS and the College of Business are proud to support economic development in the River Valley through this partnership with ASBTDC. We look forward to engaging our faculty and students with the work of this business outreach center.”

The ASBTDC is dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs launch and develop businesses that in turn strengthen and sustain the economy and communities of Arkansas. In collaboration with fellow ASBTDC offices around the state, the Fort Smith regional office will work with all types of for-profit business, from home-based to high-tech. Serving Crawford, Sebastian and Scott counties, clients can receive one-on-one confidential consulting and cutting-edge market research at no charge. Businesses and entrepreneurs can also expand their expertise by participating in affordable educational events.

The Fort Smith ASBTDC office joins two existing and successful UAFS business outreach units, the Center for Business and Professional Development, which provides customized training/consulting to meet company-specific needs, and the Family Enterprise Center, which offers family businesses a learning community. UAFS recently announced plans to relocate its business outreach services in fall 2021 from the Flanders Building on the UAFS main campus to the Bakery District at 70 S. Seventh St. in downtown Fort Smith.
ACHE Makes Game Changing Acquisition of Golden Living Facility
Arkansas Colleges of Health Education
Kyle D. Parker, JD, Chief Executive Officer of ACHE stated, “We are ecstatic to announce that we will be relocating our ACHE Biological Research Lab to this new location, taking its current space from 7000 square-feet to a massive 120,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art research facility. This new location will make us the largest research institution of any osteopathic school in the nation. We will now have the space to focus on other types of research. As such, we are creating the Health & Wellness Center which will focus on holistic health.”
Major Economic Development Announcements Made
Hytrol Expands Arkansas Operations, 250 New Jobs Expected
Phillip Poston, Director of Fort Smith Site Operations and grandson of Hytrol founder Tom Loberg, praised the expansion.
“The material handling industry is growing at a remarkable pace, and we are excited to invest in this new production facility to continue to support our customers,” Poston said. “Hytrol is proud to be joining the Fort Smith community, and we look forward to developing valuable
relationships here that will help us continue to move the world.”
Today, Hytrol has more than 700,000 square feet of production space and 48,000 square feet of research-and-development space in two facilities in Jonesboro that employ a combined total of more than 1,200 Arkansans.
“In the nearly fifty years since Hytrol moved to Jonesboro, the company’s equipment has conveyed millions of boxes and bottles along thousands of miles of the company’s material handling systems all over the nation,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said. “Hytrol’s equipment assists industries from food and beverage to pharmaceutical to package handlers move their products efficiently and safely from the point of production to the customer. Hytrol is a great company for Arkansas, and I am elated they are expanding to Fort Smith.”
After evaluating multiple locations in Arkansas and surrounding states, Hytrol selected an existing 300,000-square-foot facility in Fort Smith as the site for its new operations. Hytrol has signed a long-term lease with the owner of Spartan Logistics. The facility is located at 6500 Jenny Lind Road.
Mars Petcare Plans Expansion of Manufacturing Footprint in Fort Smith, AR With $145 Million Investment
This latest investment will create more than 120 new full-time jobs, with further expansion planned for the future, and also represents a continued commitment from Mars Petcare to manufacture its products where they’re sold and invest in the people and communities where the company operates. Mars Petcare Associates help improve the lives of pets and pet parents and will play a key role in the success of this expansion.
“The investment from Mars Petcare in their Fort Smith manufacturing facility will boost the economy at both the local and state level,” said Asa Hutchinson, Governor of Arkansas. “Since the facility opened in 2009, it has become a hub of diverse and quality jobs, and we thank Mars Petcare for continuing to grow and invest in the Fort Smith community.”
The facility expansion will begin this month and is scheduled for completion in 2022. With the investment, Mars Petcare will add more than 200,000 square-feet and two additional production lines, increasing production capacity by more than 40 percent, with room for growth in the future to continue meeting the growing demands of pet parents.
Owens Corning to Expand Manufacturing Presence in Fort Smith
Governor Asa Hutchinson and the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce welcome news of Owens Corning’s investment to build a new 550,000-square-foot manufacturing facility on 56 acres, adjacent to its current property in Fort Smith.

Owens Corning is a global building and industrial materials leader. The company will retain its current 79 full-time employees at its Fort Smith facility and hire an additional five employees. The new site is expected to start production mid-2023. The current site will be retired after the new facility begins operation.

“Owens Corning appreciates the support provided by Governor Hutchinson, the Fort Smith Board of Directors, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce throughout the planning process,” said Marcio Sandri, President of the Composites business at Owens Corning. “We’re proud to have been part of the Fort Smith community for more than three decades and we look forward to future growth. With this new state-of-the-art facility, Owens Corning is investing in the future of Fort Smith and our business.”
2020 Annual Recap of Economic Development Key Figures
Fort Smith Chamber's President & CEO Tim Allen Named North America's Top 50 Economic Developer for 2nd Year 2020 & 2021
Legislative News & Information from the 93rd General Assembly of the State of Arkansas & Washington Fly-In Preparations
Thank you to Legislative Forums Sponsors and our 93rd General Assembly delegation from the River Valley for taking time to attend weekly Legislative Forums!
The Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce has hosted its annual Legislative Forum Series each Friday while the 93rd General Assembly is in Session. Our elected officials discuss key issues and updates on bills that could impact our community and businesses. This members-only event is free to members and provides an opportunity for businesses, organizations, and individuals to connect with our local state legislators. We appreciate the support of our sponsors of this event that make it possible to have a communication channel directly with our local representation. Our next scheduled session is Friday, April 9th at 3:00 pm here at the Chamber office.
62nd Washington Fly-In to Take Place in 2021
Upcoming Business Expo & Career Fair
Our annual high-energy, high traffic event attracts 600-800 attendees and 80-100 exhibitors in a dynamic business-to-business atmosphere. We kick-off the day at 7:30 a.m. with our Signing Day Program at our Breakfast which draws approximately 350 attendees. 

Interested in Sponsorships to Market your company in addition to having a booth? Click HERE for the details.
Welcome to Our New Members From January 2021 - March 2021
Upcoming Chamber Connection Newsletters
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April 28, 2021 - Shop Local
May 27, 2021 - Education
June 25, 2021 - Membership
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