The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith has received a five-year grant worth $650,000 to establish and operate an Economic Development Administration (EDA) designated University Center.
The announcement came as part of a broader initiative by the U.S. Economic Development Administration, which is providing $16.5 million in grants to 23 colleges and universities across 14 states, a news release said. The institutions were selected to leverage their assets, promote innovation and strengthen regional economies.
The EDA’s University Center grants, as five-year awards, will allow institutions like UAFS to receive annual funding to support programs focusing on economic development planning and implementation benefiting underserved populations in the region, a news release said.
“This funding is a testament to our commitment to drive positive change and sustainable growth in the Fort Smith region. Leveraging this grant, we’ll collaborate closely with our communities and partners, engaging in real discussion to develop robust and lasting solutions that will uplift our local economy and improve quality of life,” said Kendall Ross, executive director of the UAFS Center for Economic Development (CED).
The official start date of the award is Oct 1, and planning is underway at UAFS to focus on three primary initiatives: Advancing high-growth entrepreneurship, developing a high-skilled regional workforce, and increasing the resiliency of the western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma region, the news release said.
“It’s an honor for the UAFS Center for Economic Development to be recognized on a national scale. This award, and the invitation to become an official EDA University Center, demonstrates the commitment we have to sustaining and strengthening economic development in our entire region,” said Dr. Terisa Riley, UAFS chancellor.
She said she looks forward to seeing the ways this award enables the CED to further fuel high-growth entrepreneurship and empower workforce training in the region.
The award will help the CED expand its ability to serve marginalized communities in the Fort Smith area, a noted commitment of the EDA that was reflected in its 2023 selections, which include historically Black colleges and universities, Native American-Serving nontribal institutions, Hispanic-Serving institutions (HSI), and minority serving institutions. UAFS was designated an Emerging HSI by Exelencia in Education in 2022.
There are now 73 Economic Development Administration university centers across the county, including UAFS.