Fort Smith chamber hosted manufacturing summit, workforce issue top concern

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 305 views 

The Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce recently hosted the 2017 Manufacturing Summit on July 19 in partnership with Talk Business & Politics.

More than 38 representatives from the manufacturing industry were in attendance, including 19 companies represented who have manufacturing operations within the region. A similar event was held earlier in the month in Jonesboro.

The event was facilitated by leaders from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) and Manufacturing Solutions, an AEDC entity created in 1995 that works to offer solutions and deliver results in all areas of manufacturing, including project assistance in growth & innovation, operational excellence, leadership development, Six Sigma, environmental health & safety and information technology.

“Manufacturing is a vital economic factor in our region accounting for 30% of our GNP,” said Tim Allen, president and CEO of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce. “Having the ability for companies to speak one-on-one with AEDC experts and find out what resources are available is crucial for our members. Everyone here was able to take away information and contacts that are invaluable.”

The summit agenda consisted of discussion and presentations including topics on incentives for manufacturers, legislative issues and changes, and workforce development and training.

“A major concern, and one that all companies struggle with, is the growing skills gap. The workforce disparity that U.S. manufacturers face is sizeable between the talent they need to keep growing their businesses and the talent they can actually find. We hear that every day and it’s a major part of how we approach economic development,” said Allen. “Events like the Summit and the upcoming Manufacturing Week (October 2-6, 2017) help to bring those challenges into focus for manufacturers throughout our region and also educate the general public on manufacturing job opportunities and the face of manufacturing today.”