Regionalism was stressed during last week’s Leadership Crawford County session on economic impact.
“The population within a 50-mile radius of Fort Smith is 340,000,” said Ken Warden, chief business and community outreach officer at Arkansas Tech University.”It is important to play together. We have to do it together to survive.”
Fred Williams of Williams/Crawford Advertising Inc., who was the facilitator for Thursday’s session on “Working Together,” said working together as a region will make a difference.
Mat Pitsch, executive director of the Western Arkansas Regional Intermodal Transportation Authority, pointed out manufacturing businesses are regional.
“There is nothing more important than regionalism,” Pitsch said. “When someone wants to locate in a community, they don’t want squabbling. Within seconds, they will know if you get along.
Tim Allen, president of the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce, said regionalism cannot be a foreign concept.
“We cannot stand alone and survive,” Allen said. “The Arkansas River does not divide us, it supports us.”
Jackie Krutsch, executive director of the Van Buren Chamber of Commerce, said Crawford County logistically is a prime location for growth. She pointed to the availability of highways, rail, river and airports.
“There are large parcels of land available as well as lots of green space,” Krutsch said.
When Interstate 49’s north-south corridor intersects the east-west Interstate 40, the region must be prepared, said Lisa Marie Norris, executive director of the Alma Area Chamber of Commerce.
I-49 will intersect I-40 in Alma, providing a coordinator from Canada to New Orleans.
“It is going to happen and have a major impact,” Norris said. “We are not ready yet but our vision is in place to make it happen.”
All that remains of the I-49 corridor is 13 miles from Chaffee Crossing in Fort Smith to Alma and 186 miles from Fort Smith to Texarkana.
“We don’t know where the money will come from yet,” Pitsch said. “And, a lot of hard work remains to be done.”
Pitsch also pointed to a plan by the Corps of Engineers to develop a slack-water harbor along the Arkansas River.
Allen said the pieces are in place and pointed to the growing number of business announcements made in 2013.
“The pieces are in place and we are winning,” Allen said. “But, we must enjoy the thrill of the hunt and always want more.”
Pitsch said few communities have the ability to do what the region can do. “Communities all over the United States would kill to have what we have,” he said.
“We are vulenerable by ourselves … together we can stand tall,” Warden said. “It is all about celebrating the success of our neighbors.”