Fort Smith board of directors, officials, department heads and key department personnel participated in a strategic workshop Monday (Aug. 26), facilitated by Jon Harrison with VIP2, to find a vision, mission and core values for Fort Smith.
In the morning session, Harrison reviewed strengths, weakness, external opportunities and external threats to Fort Smith, which were submitted to him from multiple sources prior to the meeting.
Strengths included the citizens of Fort Smith; that the city is centralized in the United States; the low cost of living; that Fort Smith is a transportation hub; the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith and the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education; and Chaffee Crossing. While weakness were listed at Fort Smith’s consent decree; a lack of retail and restaurants; the city not thinking it is better than it is; a continuance to listen to negative people who have no solutions; low median income; and substance abuse.
External opportunities included perception; distrust of city government; river/port/interstate; downtown and riverfront development along with park expansion; growing existing companies while attracting new ones; and attracting talent and jobs to Fort Smith.
Perception was also listed as an external threat along with Northwest Arkansas; police and fire retirement funds; lack of higher wages; retaining employees; and personal and political agendas getting in the way of betterment of Fort Smith.
Those attending the workshop were tasked with developing bucket areas of focus. The group came up with a number of ideas including communication, diversity, values, infrastructure, economic development, employee recruitment and retention, and efficiency. The group then broke off into small groups to come up with ideas how to better each area. They came back with a lot of them.
Now the challenge, Harrison said, is to something with those ideas.
“The next step is to send notes to (City Administrator) Carl (Geffken),” Harrison said.
Other next steps include “finalizing and prioritizing items for each area of focus, establishing core values; establishing measurable goals for each area of focus; reaching a consensus on a robust action plan for 2020; and developing a consistent governance/accountability process to ensure progress,” he said.
“(This workshop) kind of gave us a new focus on things that will help us in city government. It will help department heads and those in management,” said Mayor George McGill. “If we accomplish some of the things mentioned today, it will be evident in the kind of service we can deliver to the citizens. It will be evident by the progress we’ll make and the programs and the projects we’ve got on the table. So overall, I think it’s going to be good for us.”