This September, a group of local leaders is building on the momentum in downtown Fort Smith by providing a young professionals forum. Individuals from 64.6 Downtown, the Fort Smith Rotary Club, and the UAFS Alumni Association have come together with a common question, “What can we do for the professional growth of our region’s young people?” The answer is, the inaugural Prime: River Valley Professional Summit set to take place on Friday, September 21.
“There’s been a lot of positive momentum in our area lately with the arts and cultural opportunities for those who live here,” board member Dalton Person said. “But there’s still a need for young adults with respect to their day jobs. We want to give young professionals the chance to network and learn in a professional environment.”
The all-day event will occur at multiple downtown landmarks, including the Bakery, DoubleTree Hotel, and Temple Live. The one-day event features two diverse keynote speakers with eight breakout sessions.
“Troy Asberry has a corporate leadership background. He is coming here straight from an international appearance for his company, Scapa Industrial,” board president Rick Goins said. “Josh Heuser is coming from Cincinnati. Heuser has played a pivotal role in the reviving of Cincinnati’s thriving cultural and social scene.”
Breakout sessions will include leaders from throughout the region who will be speaking on matters directly applicable to the young people of the River Valley.
“We’ll have a $1,000 entrepreneurial pitch contest, a session on money management for millennials, and a panel on how to manage a side gig—and that’s all during the first hour,” Goins said.
Afternoon highlights include a service opportunity presented by the Fort Smith Rotary Club. A panel composed of local leaders Steve Clark of Propak Logistics, Rachel Reynolds of the Artist’s Laboratory Theatre, and Rodney Shepard of Arvest Bank will discuss innovative leadership in our local economy. The panel will be moderated by Dr. Ron Darbeau, Dean of the UAFS College of STEM. The event concludes with a happy hour at the Bakery that includes live entertainment, food, and beverages.
“This is a great networking opportunity with a chance for people to wind down at the end of the work week,” board member Phil Whiteaker said. “There aren’t a whole lot of opportunities for young working people in our area to come together like this. So, we hope people take advantage of it. Anyone young in age or youthful at heart is welcome to attend.”
“This summit is for anybody who loves our region and wants to become a more active part of its future,” Person said. “The bigger businesses in our region have been very supportive. They recognize the need for the professional development of their young employees. We’re hoping it becomes an annual tradition as another cog in a growing array of opportunities for area residents.”