The new executive director of the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority is charged to continue the successful transition of 7,000 acres of former military base land to civilian use and benefit. As the property is sold and developed, it returns to the local tax rolls, must promote economic growth and job creation and encourage residential development. All development must provide quality of life and include recreational, public-use attractions.
The FCRA, a quasi-governmental trust, was formed in 1997 by the Arkansas legislature after the 1995 Department of Defense decision to close Fort Chaffee. Since then, the new area has been known as Chaffee Crossing and is part of the cities of Barling and Fort Smith and Sebastian County and has been developed under a Master Land Use Plan.
Daniel Mann was selected from more than 80 applicants by the FCRA’s board of directors to follow successful executive director Ivy Owen, who had held the role since 2007.
Mann's resume included a similar role over the Great Plains Development Authority, a quasi-municipality given the responsibility to redevelop a former army ammunition plant in southeast Kansas. Mann also has led a six-county, bi-state regional partnership for eastern Iowa and western Illinois in the Quad Cities region.
His move from Parsons, Kansas brings him closer to his original hometown of Tulsa. He’s a graduate of Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla. and the University of Oklahoma’s Economic Development Institute. The Fort Smith region is familiar, although it has been a while since he was here, he said, on his second day of his new job. He’s likely to encounter many contacts from his career.
“Actually, Rick Jones at Greenwood was my high school football coach,” he noted. He had also just learned that Bob Cooper of Ghan & Cooper Commercial Properties, official realtors for FCRA, is a graduate of Tulsa University. Networking will come naturally to Mann in this region.
At his previous job, Mann recruited industry and manufacturing to the former ammunition plant. He’s excited that at Chaffee Crossing, industry is joined by residential areas, the medical colleges, small businesses and recreational trails and parks. The FCRA is more vibrant project, he said “just based on types of use,” he said. “This is a good opportunity.”
“Quality of life and place is not a catchphrase any more,” he said. It ranks with workforce and transportation as a requirement for businesses. “In Chaffee Crossing, they’ve adopted the smart growth principles of bringing that all together. The FCRA has done a really good job.”
As a job candidate, he looked at Fort Smith as an outsider might see it.
“When businesses are looking at investing a half-million or $100 million, they do their own research, no matter what we present to them,” he said. He’s convinced this region will be rated as attractive by potential investors and by incoming residents who come here for work.
“I was telling staff this morning, this is the fifth state I have worked in. This is the first time I’ve brought my wife on an interview that she said ‘Daniel, I’m going to be upset if we don’t move here.’ She liked Chaffee Crossing and all that’s going on here. She liked the churches, the big huge libraries, the school system. We really enjoyed the downtown district and we enjoy the arts, outdoor entertainment and live entertainment. We looked at all those things,” Mann said. Their two kids are in high school.
According to FCRA marketing director Lori Robertson, who with the staff is helping to bring Mann rapidly up to speed, there are about 1,425 FCRA acres still on the market, with about 507 acres of park/open space to be included, all developed under the Master Land Use Plan. “We have buyers at the door,” she said. Mann is ready to keep the momentum going.
The public is invited to meet Mann at a casual reception from 3-5 Sept. 5 at Fantasies at the Fort, 12201 Ward Avenue in Chaffee Crossing.