Is the second time the charm? For Mat Pitsch, he's sure hoping it is.
Pitsch, a Republican business owner and educator, announced today that he would run for the Arkansas House of Representatives in District 76, the same district he lost in a 2012 Republican primary against now-term limited Rep. Denny Altes.
In a press release announcing his campaign, Pitsch is described as a "fiscal conservative, small-business advocate, and successful economic developer."
His background as an economic developer with the Greater Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce is what Pitsch said is needed in Little Rock.
"The citizens of Fort Smith and Western Arkansas deserve elected officials who will make economic development a priority," he said. "With the resources and potential we have here, making sure that we are heard and represented in Little Rock is my number one goal."
Highlighting his brief tenure with the Fort Smith Chamber, which started in 2006, Pitsch touts successes including the securing of 12 new industrial announcements in the region – including $600 million in construction of new factories, $400 million spent on new equipment and "nearly 3,500 jobs took place during this two-year period."
Pitch, who became head of the Western Arkansas Regional Intermodal Transportation Authority in 2009, said his experience with that agency had helped the region secure funding for Interstate 49, a portion of which is currently being constructed through Chaffee Crossing.
"My hands-on experience running RITA allows me a unique perspective. The economic potential in Fort Smith and Western Arkansas is almost incalculable," he said. "It requires a clear focus from government on development and leveraging the power of the area to create real, new, quality jobs. With the renovations of I-540, I-40, the continued growth of I-49, and the Arkansas River, we are smartly positioned to make the area an economic powerhouse that every resident would benefit from."
During his 2012 primary run, Pitsch said the number one issue facing District 76 was the economy, adding that the then-9.1% unemployment rate was among the "highest rates in our recorded history."
"A successful legislator will focus on the most important thing(s) to his constituents. The Economic Development news lately has not been positive and we need to create an environment where we are capable of competing for those Economic Development Opportunities. These opportunities should be in a multitude of industries – Manufacturing, Tourism, Transportation/Logistics, Education, Research and Development, Medical, etc."
While not directly advocating for expanding Medicaid through the "private option" legislation that passed the General Assembly during the last session, Pitsch did say during the 2012 election that he believed Medicaid funding would be among the top priorities during the 2013 session.
"Unfortunately, I believe the issue of the $300-400 Million dollar shortfall associated with Medicaid is going to be front and center. I say unfortunately because, there are so many issues that face us as a state. However, we must deal with this shortfall or the results will be catastrophic. I would prefer our focus be on Economic Development Issues, Education, Transportation Infrastructure, etc., but it’s crucial we tackle the shortfall."
A member of Bethel Lutheran Church in Fort Smith and an adjunct faculty member at John Brown University, Pitsch is married and has four grown children.