Eyes On Ebbing: What's Next for Fort Smith


Eyes On Ebbing: What's Next for Fort Smith
Fort Smith (Shutterstock)

If, as is expected, Ebbing Air National Guard Base is chosen to train foreign pilots in the F-35 Lightning II fighter jet, the city of Fort Smith will see a transformation. 

City Administrator Carl Geffken told Arkansas Business Assistant Editor Marty Cook that as many as 1,000 people may move to the area to participate in or support the new mission, providing as much as $1 billion in economic activity. “Our homebuilders are working to increase the housing supply, our schools are ready for the new students, and our community is ready to welcome them,” Geffken said.

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The Russian war on Ukraine is fueling interest from European countries in the F-35, said Col. Jeremiah Gentry, the commander of the 188th Fighter Wing of the Arkansas Air National Guard at Ebbing. And because Russian President Vladimir Putin is not likely to suddenly repudiate aggression toward his neighbors, that means the pilot training mission at Ebbing may last some time.

Queen Elizabeth II of England died last week. You may wonder why a business publication should be concerned, but the queen over her 70-year reign demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities, qualities that business leaders could learn from.

The first is the importance of doing one’s duty. The queen did her duty as leader of a constitutional monarchy with few public complaints, despite being sorely tested. 

The second is recognizing error and addressing it. Queen Elizabeth was criticized in the wake of Princess Diana’s death in 1997 for failing to acknowledge the depth of public grief. The queen “pivoted,” as we say these days, and on the eve of Diana’s funeral delivered a speech praising the beloved princess, dispelling much of the hostility her apparent coldness had generated.

Most importantly, in terms she would recognize, the queen “fought the good fight, finished the race, kept the faith.”