UAFS Partners with 64.6, PEAK Innovation Center to host Economic Development Summit Nov. 19

The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith is proud to partner with 64.6 Downtown and the Fort Smith Public Schools’ PEAK Innovation Center in hosting the third annual Invest Fort Smith economic development summit November 19, 2020, as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week. 


The theme of this year’s Invest Fort Smith summit, Awakening the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, is impeccably aligned with the university’s mission to serve as a driver of innovation and the creative economy in the state and nation. “We are thrilled to partner with established thought leaders and emerging entrepreneurs of the River Valley to bring their stories to an international stage,” said Blake Rickman, Vice Chancellor of University Advancement. 


“This institution is rich with expertise in business and industry, and hosting this summit with our colleagues at the PEAK innovation center and 64.6 Downtown as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week is an excellent opportunity to amplify the voices of our faculty, staff, students and alumni who are propelling the River Valley into the future.”


Dr. Latisha Settlage, interim dean of the UAFS College of Business and professor of economics will lead a session on adapting to virtual needs during the crisis of COVID-19. “As the global pandemic continues to challenge business and industry, it is important for entrepreneurial leaders to embrace opportunities for creativity, innovation, and rapid adoption of new technology,” Settlage said. “As a key player in regional economic development, we look forward to hosting a forum where participants can share ideas and learn from one another.”


Applications are still open for 8-12th grade students to pitch their innovative products or services. Students interested in making an entrepreneurial pitch must submit their 60-second video to my 4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 16.


Finalists of the video pitch contest will be invited to pitch their ideas during the final session of the summit. A panel of judges will rate the top three pitch ideas based on their creativity, feasibility, and profitability, and the winners will earn $2,000, $1,000 and $500 scholarships to UAFS, where they will be able to develop and build on their ideas.


Tickets may be reserved on Eventbrite.


Panel discussions are:


1-1:50 p.m. - Optimizing online presence to stay relevant amid a global pandemic 


Dr. Latisha Settlage, Interim Dean of the UAFS College of Business, will moderate a panel of regional entrepreneurs who used technology to pivot during the pandemic and fostered new business opportunities through tech and innovation. 


Business leaders, communication professionals, marketing/graphic design students and professionals, organizations looking to improve or begin online customer engagement, and businesses looking to improve their digital, social media, and online presence will benefit from this discussion. 


2-2:50 p.m. - The Family Business


Alex Sanchez will moderate this panel, featuring the director of the UAFS Family Enterprise Center Dave Robertson, on the theory and practice of operating a family-owned business while developing a legacy for generations to come.  


Small business owners, start-ups, families transitioning their businesses to their children, heirs acquiring family businesses, and individuals interested in collaborating with family-owned companies will benefit from this discussion.



3-3:50 p.m. From Business Owner to Entrepreneur


Alice Alt will moderate this session, highlighting personal stories of the evolution of entrepreneurs. Panelists will discuss what it takes to contribute to the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Fort Smith and why its development is essential to earning the River Valley a place on the global entrepreneurship map. 


 Individuals preparing ideas for future expansion, entry-entrepreneurs, creatives, youth business creators, inventors, and venture capitalists will benefit from this discussion.



4-5 p.m. River Valley Student Entrepreneur Pitch Competition


Dr. Gary Udouj, director of the Peak Innovation Center, will host the final event of the day, during which River Valley student entrepreneurs will present their ideas 


Presentations will be delivered in the UAFS Campus Center Reynolds Room, and live-streamed to audiences. UAFS students are invited to attend the pitch competition live, while off-campus guests may join the presentations over Zoom 


For more information on the River Valley Student Entrepreneur Pitch Competition contact PEAK Innovation Center at



Rachel Rodemann Putman
Date Posted: 
Thursday, November 12, 2020
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