by: Ivy Owen
Most of the jobs created in this country are created in small businesses. Locally, Chaffee Crossing is at the forefront of business growth and job creation.
At this point in time, businesses that have chosen to locate in Chaffee Crossing have helped create nearly 1,400 jobs. We are very proud to say that the vast majority of these operations are locally owned. More jobs are coming and no doubt most of them will be with new local businesses.
What an exciting thing it will be to watch a family-owned company like Brownwood Life Care Center take root at Chaffee Crossing. This skilled nursing facility supports 150 jobs in Fort Smith and has for 30 years. It is also a beautiful place where 50 intellectually and physically challenged members of the community call home. Right down the street is the Bost Lifebridge development where developmentally challenged adults are able to live independently with the help of home health providers.
Farther down Wells Lake Road are four single- and multi-family residential developments. These were started by ERC Building Co., a long-time Fort Smith family-owned construction company. In fact, all 20 residential developments at Chaffee Crossing have been started by local builders who hire local carpenters, plumbers, electricians, roofers and other tradespeople. They also buy their materials locally, which keeps dollars circulating time after time in the regional economy. This is a vital part of keeping the Fort Smith region strong and stable.
Across the valley on the east side of I-49, several new small businesses will be opening their doors in the next year. These new investors are helping bring the dream of a vibrant, walkable Chaffee Crossing Historic District to life. The Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority has engaged planning engineers Crafton Tull to prepare a master plan for the Historic District that includes mixed-use areas with residential spaces, restaurants, recreational and entertainment venues, retail shops, commercial and service businesses as well as public areas.
On Ellis St., Diades Investments will be renovating 45,000 sq. ft. of warehouse space for a new pizza restaurant, a steakhouse, a museum, rental space, and the HSA Engineering office. Across the street, another pair of entrepreneurs are anxious to begin renovation of a barracks building for Humanity Spa. They are drawing inspiration from the Healthpointe Insurance Services building, a single-story building that was once a tank battalion building where ammunition was stored. The building has a new look. It is true to the era of the 1940s, yet it has a modern atmosphere that attracts people inside.
Family-owned commercial and light industrial business also exist at Chaffee Crossing. Industrial Precast, Tucker Electric, Rowe Sheet Metal and King Management are just a few of these types of businesses that are producing products, services and tax dollars each day.
Healthcare is not just for corporate America. Chaffee Crossing Clinic was opened a few months ago, creating new jobs and access to convenient medical care for those who live and work in Barling and east Fort Smith. On Massard Rd. a local group plans to build a mental health clinic in a mixed-use development. On Chad Colley Blvd. we will see the River Valley Family Dental Lodge across from The Reserve Apartments. The new Mercy Clinic across from the Arkansas Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine will have a foundation and walls in the coming weeks.
Keep in mind that the medical school will have 150+ students beginning classes in August 2017, some of whom already have families. They will all make a significant economic impact on local businesses as they set up their living spaces, eat in local restaurants and take advantage of entertainment and recreational opportunities. In February 2017, the River Valley Animal Hospital will open on Frontier Rd. And, 975 employees of ArcBest Corp. will report to the new corporate headquarters building mid-2017.
Within the next 18-24 months, we expect to see numerous commercial and retail construction projects started or completed. Most are local capital investments that will generate state and local taxes, create jobs for local workers who will pay state income taxes, and add to the quality of life for families all over the Fort Smith region. Regardless of where the money comes from, it just doesn’t get any better than that.
On October 28th we were proud to be a part of the grand opening of Brownwood Life Care Center as owner David Broaddrick cut the ribbon.
Ivy Owen is the executive director of Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority in Fort Smith. He is on the board of the National Community Development Council, a member of the Board of Directors of the Southern Economic Developers Council, the I-49 International Coalition, the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, the River Valley Regional Intermodal Transportation Authority, the Fort Smith Trolley Museum, and the Chaffee Crossing Historic Preservation Organization.