Fort Smith Board approves Umarex incentive plan, zoning for cancer center

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 441 views 

The Fort Smith Board of Directors on Tuesday (Feb. 6) approved a resolution endorsing Umarex USA/Walther to receive state tax incentives, and approved a zoning change that will allow Mercy Fort Smith to build a cancer center in the city.

The city received a request from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce for participation in the state “Tax Back” program authorized by the Consolidated Incentive Act of 2003 on behalf of Walther MFG, Inc. The program allows for new or expanding businesses to request refunds of sales taxes paid on building materials, new equipment and other eligible expenses incurred due to construction and/or expansion.

Umarex USA/Walther announced Jan. 18 plans to invest $30 million in its Fort Smith operation at Chaffee Crossing. The expansion is expected to add 76 new jobs with an average wage of $20.69 per hour. The expansion supports research and development and firearm manufacturing.

Umarex USA is one of the leading manufacturers and suppliers of airguns, pistols, rifles, and other sport shooting products. The parent company based in Germany is the world’s largest manufacturer of over-the-counter firearm replicas and the largest importer of air guns in Europe. Founded in 1972, the mid-sized company has approximately 1,000 employees worldwide.

The expansion will add more than 40,000 square feet to the existing 185,000-square-foot building and are expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2024.

The board approved an ordinance that rezones property at 8100 Phoenix Avenue from residential single family duplex low/medium density to a planned zoning district (PZD). The zoning request was made in order to accommodate a “multi-speciality medical clinic.”

The 9.79-acre site is located west of the Whattaburger location and across Phoenix near Mercy’s Orthopedic Hospital. According to Planning Commission documents, the rezoning allows “development of a two-story 111,000 s.f. (square foot) multi-specialty medical clinic along with the other uses listed within the land use chart.”

Mercy officials did not respond to questions regarding whether the center would be a cancer center after the Fort Smith Planning Commission meeting regarding the zoning in January.

However, renderings of the complex that accompanied the zoning application presented to the board of directors show the complex will include a breast center and a cancer center.

Ryan Gehrig, president of Mercy Hospitals Arkansas, said in July 2022 that Mercy is planning to build a cancer center in Fort Smith. His statement came after St. Louis-based Mercy said that part of a $500 million expansion in Northwest Arkansas will include a modern cancer center in that metro area.

The property is currently owned by Little Massard LLC and there is a proposed property sale to Mercy for the development of a Multi-Specialty Medical Facility pending rezoning.