Western Arkansas Offers Ideal Climate for Growth

Western Arkansas' talent, training and transportation system create the perfect climate for success

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Fort Smith, AR
Courtesy of Corey S. Krasko

When they relocate or expand in the six-county Western Arkansas region, businesses enjoy advantages including tailored workforce training programs at the region’s public schools, colleges and universities. They also have access to a well-developed logistics network that includes two major interstates and other highways, efficient river transportation, convenient rail service and worldwide connections via Fort Smith Regional Airport.

“The region’s advantages and attractions include the availability of multi-modal transportation,” says Sasha Grist, executive director of the Western Arkansas Planning & Development District. “Nearly any industry requiring transportation options is supported. There is a good inventory of property that includes existing buildings and infrastructure as well as sites of all sizes to accommodate new construction.”

Ease of Logistics

Being located in Western Arkansas contributes to the success of ArcBest, one of the nation’s leading logistics companies. The Fort Smith-based company is consistently rated within the industry as a top performer. The company has 13,000 employees.

“We’re committed to meeting our customers’ supply chain needs and making it easier for them to do business,” says Judy R. McReynolds, ArcBest chairman, president and CEO.

ArcBest provides customized logistics services including less-than-truckload carrier ABF Freight, ground expedite shipping through Panther Premium Logistics, as well as truckload, time critical, international ocean and air, and managed transportation.

The region is home to a number of innovative companies in sectors including highly developed advanced manufacturing, food production and health care. Hanna Oil & Gas in Fort Smith, for example, was founded in Crawford County in the early 1970s. Today the family-run business has operations in the mid-continent and Canada. The company operates 350 wells in the Arkoma basin and has working interest in another 2,000 wells in the midcontinent area.

Hanna Oil & Gas has also diversified into commercial real estate and health care. The company has about 40 employees, several of whom have been with it for up to 30 years and longer.

Workforce Training

“The fastest growing sectors are health care, retail and tourism, and professional, scientific, tech services. Though these are very different in nature, much of the growth of these sectors is due to the variety of industry developing in the region,” says Grist.

Growing and newly arriving businesses are able to tap into a well-developed workforce training system that offers specialized services including custom vetting at little or no cost to businesses, one-of-a-kind or sustainable training programs, modified apprenticeship programs adapted to unique needs of a business and long-term solutions reaching into the region’s middle and high schools to provide advanced skills and experience required by local companies.

The region leverages higher education assets that include the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith and a network of community and technical colleges and career resources that ensure workers have the skills employers need.

“We have four colleges and universities providing a wide variety of credentials, both credit and noncredit, many uniquely designed to enhance the region’s labor pool needs,” Grist says. “These schools reach into every area of the region with UA Rich Mountain in Polk County, Arkansas Tech-Ozark in eastern Franklin/Logan counties, and in Fort Smith both UA Fort Smith and the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bill Lewis is an award-winning business journalist whose work has appeared in publications across the United States. Bill's experience includes serving as a Capitol Hill reporter a... more

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Fri, 12/07/2018 - 12:23