"It's something to celebrate," says Mike Malone, President and CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Council. "People are moving here because we have a great economy here. They see opportunity here."
The council used census numbers to estimate Northwest Arkansas' growth rate. Malone says, on average, Benton and Washington Counties gain 23 people each day.
"It's grown our whole economy and it's raising our economic standards in the region across the board," Malone says. "A half million residents, to someone who grew up here, I didn't see that day coming."
Malone says reaching that mark will increase investment.
"Some companies, and consultants that help companies find new homes for businesses, only look at regions that are over a certain size," he says. "A lot of times, the cutoff is a half million."
However, he says we're already enjoying the benefits of a bigger population.
"There's so many more things to do now," Malone says. "A lot more people here gives you more arts and cultural opportunities, more retail offerings, and just more job opportunity."
According to the council's estimates, the population just passed 496,000 on Wednesday. The Census Bureau will release new estimates in March.
For a breakdown of exactly which cities have seen the most growth, and to find out how the council came up with the estimates, visit this site.