by Rob Keys
Posted 8/9/2011 01:52 pm
Updated 6 months ago
The Fort Smith Regional Alliance on Tuesday introduced a five-year strategic regional plan to help leaders focus economic development efforts on specific industries.
According to the plan, put together by Boyette Strategic Advisors, the region is best positioned to recruit and develop business in six sectors:
- Advanced food processing and packaging
- Closely held coporations
- Customer contact centers/technical support centers
- Power electronics
- Wind component manufacturing
The 18-month-old alliance is an economic development cooperative of communities within a 50-mile radius of Fort Smith, including six counties in Arkansas -- Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Logan, Sebastian and Scott -- and two in Oklahoma -- LeFlore and Sequoyah. The area includes more than 350,000 people.
The alliance hired Boyette in June 2010 to develop the plan, which was presented to the alliance's board of directors on May 12 at Arkansas Tech University-Ozark. On May 23 the board voted unanimously at a meeting in Booneville to accept the plan.
On Tuesday, a crowd of several hundred listened to a parade of speakers including Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, who praised the work of the alliance and issued a challenge to officials at the federal level.
"Washington needs to get its act together, because the states have theirs together," Beebe said. "At least Arkansas does, and by all indications, so does Oklahoma.
"If regionalism works in the Fort Smith Alliance, it ought to be working spades in Congress and the White House."
Other speakers included representatives with the Oklahoma Department of Commerce; Dr. Paul Beran, UA Fort Smith chancellor; and Paul Harvel, president of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Three of Arkansas' congressional delegation -- Republican Sen. John Boozman and Rep. Steve Womack, and Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor -- also spoke briefly, stressing themes of teamwork and a vision of a greater good.