The federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC 2005) decided to realign the 188th Fighter Wings of the Air National Guard at Fort Smith, Arkansas. This decision prompted concerted action on the community’s part to maintain existing levels of engagement with Fort Smith. Though the community avoided economic catastrophe, it saw that economic buffers were needed against future BRAC actions. A forward-looking approach would be required to develop a more diverse and resilient economy.
The Western Arkansas Workforce Investment Board commissioned TIP Strategies to create a holistic approach for minimizing the impact any future negative BRAC action. In part, this engagement was meant to jumpstart the region’s progress toward implementing the comprehensive economic development strategy (CEDS) TIP completed in July 2005 for the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce. Titled “The River Valley: At the Tipping Point,” the CEDS provided recommendations in three interdependent and interrelated areas: industry and innovation, quality of place, and talent. Continuing this emphasis on business recruitment, entrepreneurship, and workforce development, TIP’s response to the BRAC 2005 actions outlined several key elements and provided an action plan to guide their implementation. First, the Western Arkansas Workforce Investment System must be prepared to help any worker displaced by BRAC 2005 with job search and retraining opportunities. TIP also determined stakeholders must review progress toward implementing the 2005 CEDS and use a gap analysis to restructure any remaining tasks into initiatives that could be implemented by focused community teams. Finally, TIP recommended that the community prioritize these initiatives and develop detailed implementation plans for the highest priority initiative.