‘Reorganization’ possible for Fort Smith tourism, downtown development

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 64 views 

Fort Smith City Administrator Dennis Kelly said Tuesday (Dec. 23) he is “seriously looking” at “reorganization” of the city’s various economic development functions.

He specifically mentioned his ongoing review of downtown Fort Smith tourism and economic development efforts on how such efforts might be improved.

Kelly’s reorganization comments were made during the city’s special board meeting. On the agenda for a Jan. 10 board retreat is a review of the deficit and business model of the Fort Smith Convention Center. Kelly said he wanted to the board to know he is giving the issue considerable thought, but would not have a report prior to the retreat.

He asked the directors to keep in mind that “something in the downtown area is going to happen.”

After the meeting, Kelly told The City Wire that he is concerned about “duplication of efforts” among the four or five groups active in promoting tourism and downtown development.

“This is not personality driven,” Kelly explained. “One of those (issues) is the problem with the convention center not seeing full capacity.”

When state tourism turnback funds to the city of Fort Smith end in 2010, the city’s budget will take a “major hit,” Kelly said.

The estimated cost to operate the convention center in 2008 is $1.81 million. With rental revenue estimated at $715,000, the city will have in a few years have at least a $1.1 million convention center operating deficit.

Between 2001 and 2007, the city collected $13.23 million in turnback funds, with $4.36 million of that used to help pay down the 1997 sales and use tax bond debt. Proceeds from turnback funds between 2008 and 2010 are estimated at $4.47 million.

(The City Wire will in early January post a comprehensive look at the issue of Fort Smith tourism/convention center funding and management.)