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Press Release

U.S. Department of Commerce Invests to Help Establish Career Technology Center to Serve Fort Smith, Arkansas Opportunity Zone

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced that the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding $1.4 million grant to the city of Fort Smith, Arkansas, to help build the Fort Smith Public Schools Career Technology Center (CTC) for training in advanced manufacturing, health care, and information technology. The EDA grant, to be located near a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act designated Opportunity Zone, will be matched with $8.53 million in local funds and is expected to help create 165 jobs and retain 260 jobs.

“Through the work of American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, the Opportunity Zones, and projects like the new Career Technology Center, the Trump Administration is committed to ensuring American workers have the technical training and skills for innovative and cutting-edge jobs,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “The new Center will offer pathways in a variety of technology sectors, supporting Arkansas’ growth in advanced manufacturing, health care, and more.”

“Today’s announcement is great news for the Fort Smith community and for Arkansas’s workforce,” said Governor Hutchinson. “This investment in the career technology center will not only spur economic development, but it will also create opportunities for Arkansans to develop skill sets, which will attract employers.”

“Training and equipping more Arkansans with skills for jobs in technology, manufacturing and health care industries is vital for the state and our workforce,” said Senator Boozman. “This investment in the Career Technology Center will position Fort Smith students for opportunities to fill in-demand positions that offer competitive wages and solid career prospects. I’m pleased this grant is utilizing public-private partnerships and the Opportunity Zone incentives to help address the need for more technical and skills-based training in the region.”

“The Career Technology Center in Fort Smith will prepare Arkansans for specialized jobs in advanced manufacturing, health care, and information technology,” said Senator Tom Cotton. “I’m proud that Fort Smith was awarded this grant, which will allow hard-working Arkansans to take the next step forward in their careers.”

Workforce development programs are vital to preparing students for the jobs of the 21st century,” said Congressman Womack. This funding will allow Fort Smith Public Schools to create a state-of-the-art facility that will equip Arkansans with the firsthand experience and training they need to succeed. The center will develop our pipeline of skilled workers and promote strong technical education in our great state. Smart investments like this will provide long-term benefits, and I thank the Trump Administration for their work to support Fort Smith.”

The grant will support the reuse of an existing warehouse facility for the Fort Smith Public Schools’ CTC and provide an enhanced learning environment in the areas of science, technology, engineering, arts, and manufacturing. This project was made possible by the regional planning efforts led by the Western Arkansas Planning and Development District (WAPDD). EDA funds WAPDD to bring together the public and private sectors to create an economic development roadmap to strengthen the regional economy, support private capital investment, and create jobs.

The funding announced today goes to a designated Opportunity Zone, created by President Donald J. Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to spur economic development by giving tax incentives to investors in economically-distressed communities nationwide. In June 2019, EDA added Opportunity Zones as an Investment Priority, which increases the number of catalytic Opportunity Zone-related projects that EDA can fund to fuel greater public investment in these areas. To learn more about the Opportunity Zone program, see the Treasury Department resources page here. To learn more about the Commerce Department’s work in Opportunity Zones, please visit EDA’s Opportunity Zones webpage.

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration (
The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation's regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA makes investments in economically distressed communities in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth.

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