With a new employee tasked full-time with finding available grants, the City of Fort Smith is hoping to make every city – and taxpayer – dollar stretch as far as it can go. Chris Hoover is the city’s grants and government relations manager with an annual salary of $72,000.
City Administrator Carl Geffken said the position was discussed over the past year when administration learned about the volume of grants coming from the federal government and understood the city needed a person tasked full-time to find all the available grants and not miss them due to performing our other responsibilities.
“We believe that Fort Smith deserves to find and apply for all available grants due to the growth Fort Smith is experiencing. We may be eligible to apply for the grants directly, or we may need to work with other governmental entities to apply, such as the state or organizations such as the Western Arkansas Planning and Development District or the Frontier Metropolitan Planning Organization,” Geffken said.
The position, first posted in February, works under the administrative direction of the city administrator, will stay abreast of grant opportunities for the city and evaluate eligibility, the job description said. They will work with city departments to ensure application for appropriate grants and interact with state and federal legislative bodies, government agencies, the Arkansas Municipal League and National League of Cities to represent, advance, and protect the city’s plans, goals and interests on legislative and policy matters.
“Chris has extensive government experience, having worked as the field representative and state projects director for Senator Tom Cotton. He has contacts with elected and appointed officials at all levels of government and is knowledgeable about federal grants,” Geffken said.
What type of grants will they be exploring?
Hoover will pursue federal, state, local and private grants for which the city is eligible. Geffken said there has been a significant increase in federal grants during and after COVID, especially infrastructure and inflation reduction grants, which he said will continue for the next several years. Along with those, there are regular grants to which the city can and regularly does apply.
“The city has relied on my office and each department to research and learn about grants, but the City of Fort Smith needs a person dedicated to researching grants and working with all departments to understand their needs so grant desires and needs can be matched to the grants that are available. The reverse is also true. We need to find grants to supplement or match the taxes or fees paid by our residents to fund the services or projects the city needs” Geffken said.
Hoover said in his new role his initial focus is on gaining a comprehensive understanding of the city’s operations and building relationships within various city departments.
“This approach allows me to gain insights into the city’s specific needs and explore opportunities for departments to collaborate in pursuit of grant funding,” he said.
He said by engaging with department heads and staff, he can dive into the core functions and objectives of each department., which will enable him to better understand the city’s operations as well as assess the impact of potential legislation. This will allow the city to strategically engage with state and federal delegations to advocate for initiatives that align with the city’s interests, Hoover said.
“Fort Smith’s future is bright, and I want to assist in ushering in that future. We could be one of Arkansas’ leading cities in securing grant awards. With strategic planning and the implementation of new systems, we can ensure that Fort Smith remains at the forefront of grant funding for years to come,” he said.