More than 500 jobs are coming to the Fort Smith area over the next 12 months, according to officials.
Health Management Associates (HMA) executive director Shannon White made the announcement Thursday afternoon (April 4) at the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce.
"I'm very excited. I was born and raised here, so this is my home and it's very important to me that Health Management has recognized local talent and has opted to allow us to stay local and that's very important to me and for the community," White said.
HMA, the parent company of Sparks Health System and Summit Medical Center, will open the Arkansas Regional Service Center in the 90,000 square foot building, which currently is home to the Phoenix Expo Trade and Event Center, on Towson Avenue.
The company will be working with 27 hospitals, completing paperwork, billing and other services such as insurance verification.
"We have a wide variety of job positions all the way from base level positions, so if you do not have any experience in health care operation, we can teach you all the way to growing our leadership team," White said.
The jobs are expected to pay around $15 an hour.
“Oh, it's huge, it's huge,” said Mayor Sandy Sanders. “Twenty jobs is huge but when you get 500 jobs and ones that will be paying at the pay level that these are, it's just going to have a terrific economic impact on the city."
James Dennis, who has lived in Sebastian County for most of his life, agreed.
"[These jobs are] going to be very important after losing all the jobs with Whirlpool and some of the other smaller jobs that helped Whirlpool," Dennis said. "They're going to be very important to our community."
John Dabney, who also lives and works in the River Valley, said he's excited to see new jobs moving into the area.
"We need jobs to move in to replace what we've lost," Dabney said. "We have a lot of people in Fort Smith on the unemployment rolls right now that are really looking for work. They don't want to sit around and stay home and do nothing.They want to get out and they want to work.
The new high-paying jobs are going to be very beneficial to the area, Dennis said.
"I think the higher paying jobs are really going to be an asset," Dennis explained. "You know, of course it'll take a lot more education to get those jobs but I think in the long run I think it'll be a lot better than the factory jobs that left."
"I love this area and it's exciting to see all of the things that are happening," Dabney said. "I mean, yeah it's sad to see the jobs that have left, but I see a lot of progress coming into Fort Smith too."
"We anticipate we will be fully moved by mid-July," White said. "And so with that being said, we've already began our recruitment for our next wave of facility integration. And I would say easily by August we will be on boarding new jobs into the community."
For more on careers with HMA, visit http://www.hma.com/careers
HMA is based on Naples, Fla. The company bought Sparks Health System and Summit Medical Center in November 2009. They oversee 71 hospitals in 15 states.