The Manufacturing Executives Association held a planning meeting March 19 at the Blue Lion at UAFS Downtown facilitated by the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith. The meeting set the organization’s scope of work for the coming year and marked the university’s continued collaboration with local industry and business.
The meeting began with a welcome from Dr. Ken Warden, associate vice chancellor for workforce development at UAFS, who stressed the importance of the manufacturing industry to the university and the Fort Smith region.
“We know that manufacturing is one of the most important industry sectors in our region, and it’s important to us that we recognize you and engage you in our process,” Warden said. “It really works to validate the things we’re trying to do at UAFS when we use input and advice from company leaders like yourselves.”
“It helps our process, it helps our degree planning, it helps the local workforce, and it helps employ our graduates,” he added. “But most, it helps improve the community and the lives of our citizens.”
Warden also recognized former state Sen. Bruce Holland for his dedication to UAFS and his efforts to support manufacturing as a legislator. Holland lauded Fort Smith and expressed confidence in the city’s future.
“I’ve always tried when I was in the Senate to represent my area the best I could, and economic development is the best way to do it,” Holland said upon receiving the honor. “We’ve got such a great area here, and it’s underdeveloped, and the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith does such a great job with the programs they have there. And I think now that’s going to be recognized even more.”
MEA President Mark McCourt of McCourt Manufacturing also addressed the group, introducing himself as the new president and outlining his vision for the new year.
“I took this position thinking that we could make this organization grow. I’ve been told many times about the uniqueness of MEA. It doesn’t exist anywhere else in the state of Arkansas,” McCourt said. “One way to grow is through partnerships with UAFS and other institutions that want to create and promote quality jobs.”
Following his speech, the organization surveyed members about how best to use their resources and what priorities the organization should have in the coming year.
The MEA was formed in 1974 to advance the manufacturing industry in the Fort Smith region. According to the members directory on the website, the association includes organizations such as Georgia-Pacific, Gerdau, Pernod Ricard USA, Kraft Foods, McCourt Manufacturing and Weldon Williams & Lick.