Companies ship products via truck, rail or barge
Getting around is easy for residents and companies in the six Western Arkansas counties of Crawford, Franklin, Logan, Polk, Sebastian and Scott.
The region’s transportation infrastructure includes ready access to I-40 and I-49, the latter of which is a 1,700-mile north-south corridor that will link New Orleans to Winnipeg when fully completed. I-49 is now 85 percent complete. Also serving Western Arkansas are two Class I railroad lines and four short lines.
In addition, Arkansas River ports at Fort Smith and Van Buren accommodate companies in the region that prefer to ship goods by barge. Primary commodities handled by the two ports include sand, aggregates, grains and industrial components.
Airports in Western Arkansas include Fort Smith Regional Airport and Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport. Mena Intermountain is a general aviation facility in Polk County that provides the community of 5,700 an impressive economic impact of $25 million annually.
“We have built an excellent reputation for housing 18 to 20 aviation-related businesses on our grounds that specialize in repairing airplanes, with companies that are paint shops, engine shops, fabrication and repair, maintenance experts and upholstery and interior finish work specialists,â€ says Fred Ogden, manager of Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport. “There are about 250 to 275 total employees at the field, with all those businesses generating the multi-millions in revenue.â€
Mena offers runways of 6,000 and 5,000 feet, and Ogden says there is still plenty of room for more companies to locate.
“We are on the cusp of a $4 million project to have one of our taxiways refurbished, and in the past two years we’ve had three new hangars built,â€ he says. “We are a scenic airport with a lot of ‘easy fly’ amenities.â€
Western Arkansas offers a number of high-quality office and industrial parks, including Chaffee Crossing, the signature redevelopment of 7,000 acres that had been a part of the Fort Chaffee military installation. The development includes residential, recreational and entertainment components and has attracted a number of corporate and manufacturing tenants.
“The Fort Chaffee Maneuver Training Center serves as an Army National Guard installation, but all the rest of Chaffee Crossing is being developed for other purposes,â€ says Lorie Richardson, marketing director at Fort Smith-based Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority, the trust overseeing the Chaffee Crossing development.
To date, Chaffee Crossing has 25 residential neighborhoods with 2,600 units, 16 regional headquarters for industries, and the Arkansas College of Health Sciences, which broke ground on its second medical facility in May 2018.
“More than $1.5 billion in capital investments and 3,500 new jobs have occurred so far, and we continue to plan with smart growth in mind,â€ Robertson says. “Companies choose us because of our almost unsurpassable transportation offerings. Goods can be hauled by train, truck and river barge, and we have close proximity to major paper, pulp and timber industries.â€
Robertson adds that the development offers easy access to Fort Smith Regional Airport, and a section of I-49 runs through the middle of Chaffee Crossing and connects to U.S. Route 71 as well as Arkansas Highway 22.
“We continue to make good news all the time around here with regard to commerce and quality of life,â€ Robertson says.