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Fort Smith nonprofit hosts economic development summit

64.6 Downtown hosted the "Invest Fort Smith" event to raise awareness of local business opportunities.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — 64.6 Downtown hosted the "Invest Fort Smith" event to raise awareness of local business opportunities. Wednesday's conference was free, open to the public, and designed to build awareness of downtown economic development opportunities.

“This year’s partners include the University of Arkansas Fort Smith— the Economic Development Center, as well as the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center,” said Talicia Richardson, the 64.6 Downtown executive director.

The nonprofit has been hosting the event for five years, and Richardson says the importance of the different panels was to bring more information to the public.

"Let them know what they can do to engage with procurement departments from the city, county, and school systems as well as how to embrace diversity and inclusion in this environment when we're expecting a new group of people coming into our community," Ricardson explained. 

Dolores Chitwood attended Wednesday's event, and she says it was good to hear from successful business owners with different backgrounds.

“Today’s program was excellent because it gave an opportunity to learn how to get into selling to government entities, and of course, the diversity was a good opportunity,” Chitwood recalled.

Chitwood owns an insurance agency, so when she learned about the timetable of the air force mission in Fort Smith, she realized it was closer than what she expected.

“I plan to bring folks from our industry together to let them be aware that the Air Force mission is upon us and they need to start getting prepared for the influx of new people who are going to be buying house, car, life, and health insurance,” said Chitwood.

With all the new information she learned at the conference she can now incorporate that into her business.

“The diversity conversation is one that I consider to be very important from the standpoint that it’s a new day, and we have to be inclusive in understanding that we have to learn how to be sensitive to all kinds of people.” 

Going forward, the nonprofit plans to host more community events while growing more partnerships. The organization will also host small business Saturdays and Christmas activities downtown will start November 25 and run through the end of December.

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