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New pilot training center could pump billions into River Valley economy

Fort Smith City Administrator Carl Geffken says it's a once-in-a-lifetime project.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — On Thursday, the Air Force announced that Fort Smith had been selected to be the home of a new pilot training center, bringing several F-35 planes and a squadron of F-16 planes purchased by the Republic of Singapore. What does this mean for the City of Fort Smith, and for that matter, the entire River Valley area? 

Fort Smith City Administrator Carl Geffken says it's a once-in-a-lifetime project. 

“Landing a project, a billion dollar project doesn’t come along very often, Geffken said. "That’s the size of a car plant or a very large steel plant, and we’ve landed that”

Geffken also says it’s validation for the city and the entire area. “A validation of the ability and future of the City of Fort Smith."

And while an exact number hasn’t been determined yet, Geffken says the annual economic impact of having this mission at the 188th Wing could be as high as $1 billion a year. 

“Over a hundred United States military families coming here.  Close to 500 Singaporean military staff and their dependents coming," Geffken told 5NEWS. "So there are homes that they’ll move into, and all of the spendings will happen in the Fort Smith and River Valley region.”

Geffken also says it was more than just Fort Smith that landed this project.

"The city alone has shown its best, but so has this region, including that of Northwest Arkansas, to show that we in western Arkansas have a lot to offer," he said. "This should really put us on the map and help our residents realize if they don’t already that Fort Smith is a quality city." 

Stick with 5NEWS for more on the upcoming project. 

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