Fort Smith native Zach Ledford will return to his hometown to lead operations for First Security Bank, which is opening up a downtown location in the old Town Club property at 720 Garrison Ave.
Ledford, 35, was born and raised in Fort Smith, graduated in the first four-year class from the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, and has worked in the supply chain and financial arenas in Northwest Arkansas for the last 12 years.
“I’m excited to move back with this opportunity with First Security,” Ledford told Talk Business & Politics.
He’ll remain under the guidance of Adam Rutledge, president of Northwest Arkansas for First Security Bank. Rutledge said Fort Smith makes a lot of sense for the Searcy-based $5.3 billion financial institution.
“It is the second largest city in the state and one of the few cities along I-40 that we’re not in,” he said. “We feel like it’s connecting the dots between Northwest Arkansas and down through the River Valley with Clarksville, Russellville and Conway.”
Rutledge and Ledford also believe downtown Fort Smith is moving in the right direction and they want First Security to be a part of the momentum.
“One of the reasons we picked that location is, like a lot of downtown cities in this state, Fort Smith has done a great job of revitalizing downtown, much more so in the last couple of years. We thought it would be important to be involved in that as we are a community bank,” Ledford said.
Rutledge said First Security will occupy the second story of the old Town Club through a lease. By late fall, the bank will offer deposit and loan services at the location, although it might be non-traditional from its second floor perch. Bank leaders want to capitalize on downtown foot traffic and establishing themselves in the community, while gauging other potential locations for future growth.
“I’ve said it more than once: anybody can build a building and buy a nice hard corner and put their flag up, but it’s all about the people inside. So we’re taking an internal approach from the people’s standpoint first and foremost,” Rutledge said.
Plans for the first floor of the old Town Club are still not fully developed, but building owners Chris Whitt, Kane Whitt and Storm Nolan are playing with concepts, said Ledford. He thinks it will be something unique and special for downtown Fort Smith.
“The future will be the future. We’ll see what unfolds there. We just felt it important — as much activity is going on downtown and with a lot of walk up activity and things of that nature. — we just thought it was a good central location there on Garrison to service our clients,” Rutledge said.
The Fort Smith Town Club ceased operations Jan. 31, 2010, just a few years after moving into the new building. The club at the time had 10 full-time and 6 part-time employees. Smith Auto Group acquired the building and opened it as its headquarters operation in August 2014. Smith Auto Group sold in mid-2016 to Texarkana-based Orr Auto Group, leaving the building once again without a tenant.