Fort Smith metro building activity up more than 19% in October, still short for year

by Aric Mitchell (aric.mitchell@gmail.com) 164 views 

Building activity in the Fort Smith region bounced back in October, cutting its year-to-date deficit by just over 2% after a rough September placed it into the red.

The region — permits for Fort Smith, Van Buren, and Greenwood — began October 8.13% behind 2016 figures. But increases in all three markets pushed it to $171.386 million in valuations for the first 10 months, just 5.81% removed from 2016’s YTD tally of $181.959 million.

Over the last 30 days, the region posted $18.483 million in permits, an increase of 19.12% from October 2016’s $15.516 million. Fort Smith accounted for $14.825 million of the month’s values on 198 permits, a 16.66% increase from October 2016’s $12.708 million. Just under $10 million of that was on the residential side, while the only major commercial permit of note a $3.276 million item for Fort Smith Regional Airport’s new fire and rescue station at 6620 McKennon Boulevard. Most of the money used for the facility — about $3.12 million — comes from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and its Airport Improvement Program.

The FAA announced July 24 it would award the money to Fort Smith Regional as discretionary and entitlement funding for the construction of an aircraft rescue and firefighting building. The Fort Smith Regional Airport has struggled to maintain fire and emergency services following the June 2014 change of mission for the 188th. The Air Guard unit changed from a manned flying mission to an unmanned mission focused on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Prior to the mission change, the FAA allowed the airport to lease the land for $1 a year to the 188th. In turn, the 188th provided services to the facility – like aircraft rescue and firefighting assistance – and also reimbursed it for maintenance and infrastructure upgrades. This arrangement resulted in a “cost avoidance” to the Fort Smith airport of $400,000 a year, which was significant especially in light of the facility’s small-by-comparison $2.6 million operating budget. When the 188th no longer had airplanes on the base, military officials pulled the plug on firefighting services.

It’s that fire and rescue service that has been a financial burden on the airport. Former Airport Director John Parker had said the airport budget is operating with a $360,000 loss each year now that the arrangement is no longer in place.

CITY PERFORMANCE BREAKDOWN
Through the first 10 months of the year, the metro’s largest city trailed the previous year with $141.322 million against $158.877 million — a decline of 11.05%. While numbers remain soft, the city finished September down 13.46%, so October’s performance helped shave 2.41% off the short.

Also performing better than they did in September were the cities of Greenwood and Van Buren. Greenwood reported $1.939 million in valuations against last October’s $1.716 million — an increase of approximately 13% — with $1.608 million of the total coming from a single residential new construction permit.

Van Buren surged 57.42% with $1.719 million in valuations against October 2016’s $1.092 million tally. Over $1.1 million of the total was for new home construction. For the year, both cities are up with Greenwood improving 50.91% to $14.074 million against $9.326 million and Van Buren besting its previous performance by 16.24% with $15.99 million against $13.756 million the previous year.

REGIONAL BUILDING ACTIVITY RECAP
Combined total for the three cities
2016: $213.734 million (With 83.33% of the year complete, the 2017 YTD is at 80.19% of the 2016 total)
2015: $218.899 million
2014: $198.983 million
2013: $202.389 million
2012: $154.64 million
2011: $201.079 million
2010: $149 million
2009: $164 million

Fort Smith
2016: $187.675 million (With 83.33% of the year complete, the 2017 YTD is at 75.3% of the 2016 total)
2015: $191.631 million
2014: $174.252 million
2013: $185.057 million
2012: $136.248 million

Van Buren
2016: $15.328 million (With 83.33% of the year complete, the 2017 YTD is at 104.32% of the 2016 total)
2015: $16.009 million
2014: $7.918 million
2013: $8.283 million
2012: $8.609 million

Greenwood
2016: $10.731 million (With 83.33% of the year complete, the 2017 YTD is at 135.71% of the 2016 total)
2015: $11.259 million
2014: $16.813 million
2013: $9.049 million
2012: $9.983 million

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