NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — The Northwest Arkansas Council held its annual meeting in Springdale on July 14 and its primary concern was clear: addressing what it deemed “a critical inflection point” in the explosive growth of the Northwest Arkansas region.

The NWA Council released a 29-page Regional Strategy guide designed to be implemented from 2022-2026, including five key goals and individualized action plans for each one.

“Stakeholders and policymakers must act boldly to preserve [Northwest Arkansas’] quality of life and affordable cost of living,” that release states. “The time to act is now. The region, comprising Benton, Washington, and Madison counties, is being challenged by its very economic success.”

The strategy guide then noted some relevant statistics, including the following:

  • Northwest Arkansas ranks fourth among metropolitan areas with populations above 500,000 in population growth since 1990
  • The region ranks third in the country in job growth from 2013 to 2018
  • NWA is second nationally in wage gains for metropolitan areas with populations between 500,000 and a million people

The guide also noted that the region ranked in the top five nationally of U.S. News and World Reports’ “Best Places to Live.”

The Northwest Arkansas Council is investing more than $1 million to attract top talent to the region through the LifeWorks Here initiative, which brings to light the lifestyle, career and innovation benefits offered by the region.

To ensure robust future growth, the Northwest Arkansas Council and the region must elevate housing affordability and quality of place to the very core of its talent attraction and economic development strategies. An overarching goal of this strategy is for Northwest Arkansas to create an economic development future that is vibrant and equitable, and that builds on the unique character and quality of life that has contributed to the success.

NWA Council Regional Strategy Guide

The strategy guide then assigned its recommendations and priorities into five categories:

  1. Continue the focus on developing, attracting and retaining diverse talent.
  2. Expand efforts to bolster the innovation economy and entrepreneurial ecosystems.
  3. Put significant additional focus and investments on addressing the challenges of growth, providing affordable housing and preserving character and quality of life.
  4. Keep building on Northwest Arkansas’ brand as a vibrant, thriving, up-and-coming and inclusive community which offers a high quality of life for all.
  5. Expand the civic capacity of the Northwest Arkansas Council and related organizations to address new challenges and needs.

The guide offered detailed plans for addressing each of those priorities. Some of those forward-looking goals include partnering with the newly-formed Arkansas Council on Future Mobility, as well as continuing to work with XNA to “expand connectivity” at the region’s biggest airport.

The strategy guide concluded by citing the Council’s ability to expand its own work.

“The Northwest Arkansas Council is the region’s key civic organization,” it stated. “As such, it is the ideal venue for the conception, incubation, exploration, promulgation and ultimately the deployment of new ideas that impact on the region’s economic and social development.”

The NWA Council’s next “Onward Ozarks” event is on July 29 and it is open to the public. Registration information is available here.

More information about the Northwest Arkansas Council is available here.