University of Arkansas at Fort Smith picks UA alum Justin Smith to lead Family Enterprise Center


FORT SMITH -- The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith announced Wednesday its Center for Economic Development hired Justin Smith as the new director of the Family Enterprise Center.

Smith, 40, has worked as the chief business and community outreach officer for Arkansas Tech University-Ozark Campus for the past eight years, according to a UAFS news release. He was also sector manager with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission for a number of years before then.

Kendall Ross, executive director of the Center for Economic Development, said in the news release Smith's experience will be "invaluable" to the Family Enterprise Center.

"He received great support from our UAFS search committee, faculty and staff," Ross said. "I am confident that he brings energy, passion and a great vision to the Family Enterprise Center that will serve to move us forward as a center of excellence."

Smith also has a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Arkansas, along with a master's degree in student affairs administration from Arkansas Tech University, the news release states.

The Family Enterprise Center offers family businesses a learning community to meet their needs, according to the UAFS website. It's housed in the UAFS Center for Economic Development at the Bakery District at 70 S. Seventh St. in downtown Fort Smith.

Smith said via email he has always been interested in how universities provide resources to those outside the normal student body and traditional academics. This includes training for businesses and the community. Smith wanted to be part of the Center for Economic Development after seeing how Ross built a "strong team and culture" there.

"Specifically on the Family Enterprise Center, I love how there is support for and a focus in assisting family owned businesses," Smith said. "These businesses are unique because they have the same set of challenges other businesses have, but then also have a unique set of circumstances and opportunities in being family owned. The CED as a whole can help tackle these needs."

Smith said he started in his new position Monday. His goals for the Family Enterprise Center include driving more people to attend center activities, such as its peer groups and quarterly breakfasts and conferences, as well as getting center members more involved with the training opportunities the center offers.

Smith also expressed interest in adding diverse members to the center, building lists of resources and common themes and issues in family business and finding ways to get university business faculty and students involved with the center.

Ross said he served as interim director of the Family Enterprise Center since September 2021 after Dave Robertson, who previously held the position, retired in December 2020.

"We have expanded the role to develop and implement a long-term strategy for the Family Enterprise Center that attracts regional and national attention to programming and to significantly grow the center to become a national center of excellence," Ross said.

The Center for Economic Development will introduce Smith to the members of the Family Enterprise Center during the center's quarterly breakfast at 7:30 a.m. today, the news release states.


Justin Smith’s yearly salary as director of the Family Enterprise Center is $85,000.

Source: Rachel Putman, associate director for strategic communications, University of Arkansas at Fort Smith