Fort Smith Shifting Away from ‘Manufacturing Town’

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Fort Smith has been a longtime manufacturing area, but companies like Experian, Sykes and Health Management Associates are attracting a different kind of work force.

"It's going to be great for Fort Smith and great for the whole area at a time when we desperately need some good news,” said city director Mike Lorenz.

With 500 jobs coming into the area thanks to HMA, the president of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce says the people in the local workforce have made this possible.

"We've always been known as a manufacturing community, but Fort Smith has a lot of human capital that is untapped and that is one of the major reasons they decided to do it here," said Tim Allen.

The jobs at HMA’s Arkansas Regional Service Center are expected to be more clerical and related to medical billing, coding and insurance claims. The work is unlike the hundreds of manufacturing jobs the area has lost over the years.

"It's something that's been talked about for several years,” said Lorenz. “We need to not focus on the manufacturing jobs we've lost and look forward to different jobs. They are out there, and there are companies looking to locate."

Fort Smith may never fully shift away from being a manufacturing town, according to Allen, but it benefits the whole community to diversify the workforce.

"I think it speaks volumes that we're trying to work on bringing jobs back to this region,” said city director Kevin Settle. “It shows just another step that everyone is working together - the city, the county, the chamber - and companies are trying to work together to bring companies here to Fort Smith to make the region better."

HMA qualified for tax incentives from the state, which helped the company decide to locate in the River Valley, according to Allen.