Fort Smith chamber holds expo and job fair, lobbies for trail tax vote

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 234 views 

A gathering of 90 businesses and organizations based or active in the Fort Smith metro area participated Friday (May 1) in the “Path To Progress,” a business expo and job fair hosted by the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce.

O.K. Foods was the presenting sponsor of the event.

The day began with a First Friday Breakfast address by Mike Malone, CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Council. Malone spoke about the socio-economic benefits of the Razorback Regional Greenway, a 36-mile multi-used paved trail system that connects Bentonville, Fayetteville, Johnson, Lowell, Rogers and Springdale. It provides access to major destinations including schools, shopping centers, hospitals, parks, churches, and the University of Arkansas.

A grand opening of the more than $30 million project is set for Saturday (May 2), with Northwest Arkansas officials and others from around the state expected to attend a day of events associated with the trail.

Malone’s speech was part of a theme with the expo that began at 8:30 a.m. after the First Friday Breakfast concluded. The expo exhibit area at the Fort Smith Convention Center included several signs promoting a “Yes” vote for trail funding in Fort Smith.

The Fort Smith Board of Directors approved Jan. 20 a May 12 election in which city voters will be asked to vote for renewal of the 1% sales tax for street, bridges and drainage improvements. Part of the ballot will also include a voter question on directing 5% of the tax collections toward the multi-use trail system. A Trails & Greenway Committee developed the plan that seeks to add 35 miles to the city’s trail system. The Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Fort Smith Regional Council have endorsed renewal of the tax and the 5% portion for trails and greenways.

The chamber on April 27 issued an endorsement for renewal of the street tax and the 5% for trail development.

“A connected multi-use trails system will help attract and retain skilled employees and companies while expanding the use of simple, clean transportation. Additionally, trails will improve the overall quality of life in the community by promoting a healthy lifestyle and offer low-cost recreational activities for residents,” the chamber noted in its statement.

A group opposing the 5% plan, Save Our Streets Fort Smith, argues that the city is not now able to keep up with street maintenance, and further dilution of the funding will result in long-term infrastructure problems.