FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Fort Smith will be the new home for the Singapore Air Force squadron, potentially having a $1 billion impact on the economy.
In a press conference on June 8, Governor Hutchinson says this will bring in 825 new personnel, with 180 coming from Singapore.
Governor Hutchinson said a hurdle the state encountered was 1,300 additional feet of runway needed for a training mission. The cost of this additional runway was $22 million.
Hutchinson said the state committed $17 million while the city of Fort Smith committed $5 million to the project.
Within the next couple of years, Ebbing Air National Guard Base will house 36 F-35 fighter planes and an F-16 squadron from the Republic of Singapore.
Col. Jeremiah Gentry says foreign nationals relocating to the area to buy houses and set up roots is just the beginning.
“There will also be active duty personnel,” Gentry said. “The base will probably increase a little bit in size as well. So there will be jobs for the air force, for foreign partners, for us and the community in the way of contracting.”
Sen John Boozman of Arkansas says this showcases the River Valley as the place to be.
“Getting these squadrons, economically it is a huge deal,” Boozman said. “I don’t think we can underestimate the value it is to the state, to the region.”
“This is an absolute game changer for Fort Smith,” said Tim Allen, President and CEO of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce. “The selection process was extremely rigorous. The months long, meticulous, behind-the-scenes effort between the congressional delegation, Governor Asa Hutchinson’s office, the city and the Chamber positioned us perfectly to secure this project. Welcoming this new mission, these families, and the talented military team that will be making their new home here, will mean wave after wave of economic growth for the area for years to come.”
Allen continued, “Fort Smith has built an outstanding relationship with the military that has been strongly in place for more than 50 years. Between the Ebbing Air National Guard Base and the Fort Chaffee Joint Maneuver Training Center, the citizens of the Fort Smith Region have supported the military in all types of missions and this will be no exception.”