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Economy In Fort Smith, Arkansas

Updated on July 16, 2015
Fort Smith National Guard is located in the community.
Fort Smith National Guard is located in the community. | Source

A Diverse Economy

Fort Smith is in Sebastian County, Arkansas and recognized by economists and top financial magazines as one of the Best 25 Small Cities for Jobs and Business in America. Even though considered a small city by the US Federal Government, Fort Smith is the second largest city in the state, just behind Little Rock.

In 1817, US troops traveled to area known as Belle Point, named by French fur traders earlier, and built a fort. This fort was intended to withstand any raids against settlers made by the Cherokee and Osage Nations that had migrated into that area. No evidence of earlier Indigenous Peoples have materialized in this area, except one ceremonial mound of uncertain origin.

The US Army fort became Fort Smith, while the settlement arising around it became the City of Fort Smith, Arkansas. The military forces left, and Native Americans came in to trade furs and establish a positive relationship with the settlers. After US troops returned, trade continued to grow between town merchants, troops at the fort, and Native Americans.

Northwestern Border City

A markerFort Smith, Arkansas -
Fort Smith, AR, USA
get directions

Gold Rush Progress

The Gold Rush of 1849 brought in additional residents and businesses to Fort Smith, which grew further to become a major stop for wagon trains headed west. Joining the Confederacy during the American Civil War, Fort Smith and the other damaged cities of Arkansas were later reconstructed after the war.

Fort Smith was restored to an even larger and more prosperous city than prior to the war and became the major gateway to the West. today, Travel and Tourism are still health parts of the local economy of Fort Smith.

RIver Blenders Barbershop Quartet - " Life's Worth Living in Fort Smith Arkansas"

Fort Smith Industries are Successful

Fort Smith's healthy economy is based largely in Food Processing, Healthcare, Education, and Appliance Manufacturing. Tourism and related industries bolster this healthy business environment, given the presence of The Fort Smith National Historic Area and the fascinating history of legendary train robbers and bandits in the area. This includes the infamous Bonnie and Clyde, among others.

However, the fastest growing industry in the Fort Smith area is Gas and Oil Extraction, along with Petroleum Engineering and related Service Unit and Oil Derrick Operations. Computer and Information Technology Professionals are needed in increasing numbers to handle the data associated with the Energy Industry and all the other industry sectors.

Fort Smith, Arkansas National Historic Site

A markerFort Smith National Historic Site -
Fort Smith National Historic Site, 301 Parker Avenue, Fort Smith, AR 72901, USA
get directions


Historic Sites to Visit

  • Fort Smith National Historic Site, is the major draw for history buffs in Fort Smith. You will see the remains of the original 1817 fort on the Arkansas River. As you go inside, you stand in the courtroom of Hanging Judge Isaac C. Parker. He hanged more convicted criminals than any other judge in the Old West. Fort Smith sponsors a yearly airshow.
  • Belle Grove Historic District, is an interesting a 22-block area in downtown Fort Smith with 130 years of architectural styles.
  • Fort Chaffee, US Army and Air National Guard and Reserve Corps and active units. In 1958, Elvis Presley visited Fort Chaffee on the way to his army basic training. His station in German changed his life when he met future wife, Priscilla. today, his granddaughter Riley looks a lot like him.
  • Miss Laura's Social Club is a famous one-time brothel, the only former house of prostitution on the US National Register of Historic Places.
  • Trolley Museum and rides are located at 100 S 4th St, Fort Smith, AR 72901, Famous railroad locomotives are houses here.

Trolley Museum and Rides: 100 S 4th St, Fort Smith, AR 72901

Largest Employers for Fort Smith

  1. Sparks Regional Medical Center - Healthcare
  2. O K Industries Incorporated - Two large locations for poultry processing.
  3. Whirlpool - Appliance manufacturing.
  4. St. Edwards Mercy Medical Center - Healthcare
  5. Rheem Ruud Air Conditioning - HVAC
  6. Fort Smith School District - Education, Pre-K thru 12
  7. Baldor Electric Company - Manufacture of generators and motors [Energy related industry sector]
  8. Fort Smith Fighter Wing
  9. University of Arkansas at Fort Smith
  10. ArcBest
  11. City of Fort Smith - Government employment.

Bison Crossing!


Top 10 Fast Growing Jobs - Energy, Education & Health

he top four of the top ten most in-demand jobs in the Greater Fort Smith Area are related to Energy - specifically, Oil and Gas. In fact, the Number One Job on this list – Service Unit Operators - is increasing by a rate of 80% from 2004 – 2014. The remaining six high demand occupations are in the vital areas of Information Technology (needed in nearly all industries), Education, and Health/Social Services.

This pattern of high demand occupations fits the ongoing progress achieved in Fort Smith in creating new jobs through energy and alternative energy sources, revitalizing the city, and educating and serving the populations that need intensified health and education services.

These positive patterns and progress combine to keep Fort Smith on the list of Best Small Cities in America.

  1. Service Unit Operators, Oil, Gas, and Mining - Oil and Gas
  2. Petroleum Engineers - Oil and Gas
  3. Extraction Workers – Oil and Gas
  4. Derrick Operators, Oil and Gas
  5. Computer Systems Software Engineers - IT
  6. Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors - Health
  7. Postsecondary Teachers – College Level Education
  8. Network and Computer Systems Administrators - IT
  9. Vocational Education Teachers – College Level Education
  10. Community and Social Service Specialists – Health/Social Services

Other high demand occupations that are experiencing many new openings are:

  • Tractor Trailer Truck Drivers
  • Transportation and Freight Movers
  • Manufacturing and Production jobs
  • All medical professions - Registered Nurses (RNs), physicians, physical/occupation therapists, aides, etc.

Fort Smith Air Show
Fort Smith Air Show | Source

Higher Education

The Greater Fort Smith Area is served by Federal and County funding that provides some subsidized Education and Training opportunities for its residents under the legislation of the current Workforce Investment Act or WIA.

These opportunities cover qualifying adults of all ages, including senior citizens. Others can attend by paying the customary fees, but also may qualify to use any customary and usual grants/scholarships provided by any of the institutions. These school include short certificate courses all the way up to 4-year degrees.

  • Area Agency on Aging of Western Arkansas, Inc. – Training and Jobs for Senior Citizens
  • Arkansas Oklahoma School of Real Estate
  • Arthurs Beauty College at Fort Smith
  • Askins VoTech, Inc.
  • CompuMaster
  • H & R Block Income Tax School
  • Mellie's Beauty College
  • Petra Allied Health, Inc.
  • SBC Health
  • Skillpath Seminars – Ongoing Professional Development Classes
  • University of Arkansas at Fort Smith
  • Westark Barber College

Wind Farm
Wind Farm

University of Arkansas at Fort Smith

University of Arkansas at Fort Smith offers dozens of career opportunity majors that include an innovative degree in Workforce Leadership; sever nursing degrees, many technology degrees that apply to the fast growing jobs in the area, sciences, automotive specialties, and a number of other professions. The university offers 2-year Associate and 4-year Bachelor degrees, as well as several Technical Certificates and Proficiency Certificates.

Overall, the university is able to train students successfully to take on the high demand and high paying jobs available in the Western Arkansas area. This incudes the National Renewable Energy Laboratory of Fort Smith. Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Wind Energy are among the alternative energy sources under study and development at this time.

Sports and Recreation

© 2008 Patty Inglish


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Yes, "associate" surely does not have 5 esses (s) in it, for instance! And I found a couple spacing problems as well - Thanks!

    • profile image

      Robyn R 8 years ago

      This is a really good page.  I've traveled some and always check out the city via the internet first. This was very well done and very interesting.  Thank you, (you may want to check for typos though, I saw a few)  Love Fort Smith!!!!!!

    • TheMoneyGuy profile image

      TheMoneyGuy 9 years ago from Pyote, TX

      Great Link


    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I wrote a series of Native American Hubs of ~ 30 articles, and it is clear that while some Native Americans were enaged in disputes with the Fort Smith troops originally, some of them and other Nations that were displaced from eastward in the US to Arkansas settled at Fort Smith with no problem (just as many  of the Iroquois Nation meshed with Caucasian society around them and started their own businesses).

      Interesting Note -- Native Americans that volunteered to fight in the American Civil War from Arkansas and elsewhere:

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks for your input. I'll continue to look at the bright side and don't see that the poverty level for Arkansas workers is that large - for all AR people it's around 18% and that includes public assistance. In central Ohio it's twice that - 34% for all in my county. That's large, comparatively. And, as oil goes down, alternative energy should go up, but we'll see.

    • TheMoneyGuy profile image

      TheMoneyGuy 9 years ago from Pyote, TX

      The best part of Fort Smith is that is very close to Oklahoma. You brushed over it, but after removal of the five civilized tribes, Fort Smith was the Federal post overseeing operations in Indian Territory. U.S. Marshall's under Judge Isaac "The Hanging Judge" Parker. Enforced Federal Law in OKIT(Indian Territory). The relationship was less than rosy, and didn't improve much after the civil war.

      You failed to mention that the main reason Arkansas is so business friendly as it is a right to work state, therefore business can exploit the population without fear of unionization. That is why most of the working population is below the poverty line.

      Except those in Oil and Gas and that ebbs and flows with that industry which is coming off a peak back into a slump. You will soon see layoffs in that industry as oil keeps plummeting.