The first day at a relatively high-profile job brings with it a mix of stress and excitement. But if your job is the new chief operations officer — the No. 2 position — at the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, the emotional mix jumps to another level.
Tim Allen, who recently worked as a project manager for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, began Tuesday (Nov. 1) as the chamber’s COO just a few days after Whirlpool Corp. announced it will close its Fort Smith refrigeration plant.
“We have to look at this as a opportunity,” Allen said of the Whirlpool closure. “That’s what we have to do, to pull together as a community and move forward.”
Allen said facing a major job-loss event like Whirlpool is “unfortunately the nature of the beast and part of the business.”
But Allen began working to respond to the Whirlpool loss before arriving in Fort Smith. He was part of the AEDC crew that tried to convince Whirlpool to stay. The AEDC crew began working to find a Whirlpool replacement after the decision was made, Allen said. And by Day 1 at the chamber he made calls to six of 12 Whirlpool suppliers in the area.
“I’m proactively getting out there and hearing what they have to say … and seeing what we might to do help,” Allen explained.
One of those suppliers is Ron Embree at River Bend Industries. Embree, with about 60% of his plastics-forming business tied to Whirlpool, is working to diversify the plant’s business in an effort to keep his 118 employees profitably occupied. He’s working to do that with a Kosmo cooler and other new product ideas.
Allen said he is already working with his former colleagues at AEDC to see what they can do to help Embree.
A native of Shreveport, La., Allen was with the AEDC for more than 11 years helping with economic development projects in the Fort Smith region and Northwest Arkansas. \ Part of that work included the location of Experian in Van Buren, and expansion of the Gerber and Hiram Walker plants in Fort Smith.
Prior to the AEDC, Allen spent 17 years working in marketing and sales for Centerpoint Energy. He attended Arkansas State University, but did not complete his degree. However, he did graduate from University of Oklahoma Economic Development Institute and is certified as a Professional Community Economic Developer.
Allen’s wife, Debbie is a registered nurse and already has a job in the Fort Smith. On Friday they are scheduled to close on a house in Fort Smith.
“We’re not wasting anytime. I’m here. I’m invested,” Allen said.