In less than a year, if all goes as planned, UAFS will open a second downtown location, this one focused on business, training, consulting, and economic development in the Fort Smith region.
UAFS at The Bakery District will become the new home for the Center for Business and Professional Development and the Family Enterprise Center, both currently housed in the Flanders Building. The new operation at The Bakery District, a developing hub for community events at 70 S. Seventh Street, joins The Blue Lion, an entertainment venue at 101 N. Second St.
The new space will allow the university to provide non-credit training for both blue-collar workers and C-Suite executives “where the people are,” said Kendall Ross, director of the CBPD.
The Bakery District is a popular new space in the remodeled Shipley Baking Building. On the open and airy first floor are second locations of both Fort Smith Coffee Company and Bookish: An Indie Shop for Folks Who Read as well as other businesses. There is also outdoor patio space.
Ross said sketches for the UAFS space include 10 offices upstairs in the building with a large meeting area and smaller work stations and collaborative space. Downstairs there will be a large conference room that can be divided into two classrooms, one large enough for 45 students, and the other for 75 students.
Ross sees the new initiative as an expansion of CBPD’s mission to provide training and consulting services in a way that is cost-effective and relevant. He envisions seminars and workshops for executives and managers, practical information for people looking to develop their businesses and Fort Smith’s economy.
He also sees a place for technical training like that offered by Future FIT, which seeks to prepare unemployed or underemployed workers for good jobs in manufacturing.
Although he can see some capstone projects or advanced university classes taking place at the Bakery space, Ross does not think the venue will be used much by students in for-credit classes. But he would like to see faculty from across all colleges on campus buy into the new outreach.
“We know there is a need for non-credit training – at all levels,” Ross said. “We know that The Bakery District is a happening place. This gives us a chance to provide what people need where the people are. What we offer will be fully customizable; we want to provide exactly what people need.”
Ross expects the new space to be open and operating by September 2021.