FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Sen. Tom Cotton took time to answer some questions today in Fort Smith while touring Union Christian Academy and having lunch at the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce.

He says that it was an opportunity for him to hear how students and teachers are doing with the start of the new school year.

“Any time the school year starts, I always try to get around the state and hear from teachers and from students about what’s on their mind, about their concerns, about what’s happening in Washington, how it impacts the way we are educating the next generation of students here in Arkansas, not just to be good workers in the economy, but also to be good citizens for their communities, our state and our nation,” Cotton said.

Cotton says that he hopes schools can move forward from the limitations over the past few years.

The senator also talked about a number of topics outside the school including the U.S. Air Force’s plans to base the F-35 foreign training mission in Fort Smith.

Cotton said he’s excited the air force made the decision to bring the mission to Arkansas and for the potential economic impact the mission could have on the region.

“Senator [John] Boozman, and Congressman [Steve] Womack, and I worked on this for many years. This could mean hundreds of millions of dollars for economic development here in the River Valley,” Cotton said. “When you have fighter pilots and maintainers from places like Singapore, and Germany, and Poland and other allies sending their airmen here to train on the F-35.”

The Ebbing Air National Guard Base in Fort Smith is undergoing a multi-million dollar runway extension.

Cotton says the next step in the process is an environmental impact statement. He says he’s confident that won’t reveal any major hurdles for the project.