Fort Smith Chamber announces new VP of workforce development

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 967 views 

The Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce has hired Anita Brackin, a labor and education expert from Tennessee, as its new vice president of workforce development.

The position, which focuses on strengthening ties between educational institutions and the business community, originally grew from a $1.3 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation for a focus on expanding workforce initiatives in the area. The grant is split equally between the Northwest Arkansas Council and the Fort Smith chamber and is part of an effort to build a regional infrastructure to develop talent for a variety of career pathways, including advanced manufacturing, healthcare and information technology jobs.

Steven Lamm, former project manager with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and former aide to Gov. Mike Beebe, was hired in May 2019 by the chamber as vice president of workforce development. Lamm began as the new vice president of economic development for Jonesboro Unlimited, a non-profit organization that promotes economic development in Northeast Arkansas, March 15.

Brackin will join the chamber this month to focus on building relationships between schools in the Fort Smith region and employers to better prepare students for careers and meet the needs of the workforce, a chamber news release said.

“We’re pleased to welcome Anita to the community and have someone with her enthusiasm and experience join us in this role,” said Tim Allen, president and CEO of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce. “As evident by the recent partnership announcements at the PEAK Innovation Center, business leaders absolutely see the value in the effort and the long-range return on investment for their companies. And education leaders throughout the area are structuring their strategies to help build the workforce we need.”

Fort Smith’s ABB, NEMA Motors Division, announced May 24 it will make a $1 million investment in the Peak Innovation Center, a regional career and technology center in Fort Smith. ArcBest announced May 7 it will donate $1 million and the center’s Community Room/Maker Space 10,000-square-feet multipurpose area will be named after the Fort Smith-based shipping and logistics company. Baptist Health-Fort Smith and Mercy Fort Smith announced Feb. 8 a collaboration to invest $1 million – $500,000 each – in healthcare science programming at the center.

Anita Brackin

Fort Smith Public Schools’ Peak Innovation Center, scheduled to open in August, will be a regional career and technology center with a focus on innovative instructional strategies within the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) disciplines.

Most recently, Brackin served as associate vice president of workforce, economic development and continuing education at Southwest Tennessee Community College in Memphis.

In that role, she was responsible for fostering business and industry relationships for developing and administering workplace-training programs, the news release said.

Prior to that, she worked for the Greater Memphis Chamber as the director of workforce development and education.

She sat on the boards of several entities, including the Bartlett Area Chamber of Commerce, the Shelby County Joint Regional Economic Development Board, the Graduate Memphis Steering Council and the Tennessee Valley Authority Workforce Development Institute.

“To say I’m excited and ready would be an understatement,” Brackin said. “Being a part of the effort that will help education and business thrive is a responsibility and challenge I’m ready to tackle. The Fort Smith community is succeeding in so many ways already and advancing workforce development is key to that continuing.”