NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — Over the years, Northwest Arkansas has attracted thousands of people from all over the country, and for different reasons. Several entities are actively working to bring people from out-of-state, which impacts our fastest-growing cities.
“Some people thought they were going to leave but they just fell in love,” said Brittany Swiderski.
She and her partner Amin Nasehi may not be native Arkansans, but they now consider Northwest Arkansas home.
“I grew up in Toronto,” said Nasehi.
“And I’m originally from Buffalo, New York,” added Swiderski.
They both now live in Fayetteville, where Nasehi works as a dentist and Swiderski works as an orthodontist. After completing school during the pandemic, they were on the hunt for a new place to live and different cities were on the table including Madison, Wisconsin, West Palm Beach Florida, and Philadelphia.
But as the pandemic progressed, they had to look at smaller areas. Swiderski said moving to Northwest Arkansas wasn’t at the top of her list.
“But then when we came out and visited. We came here after (visiting) North Dakota and aesthetically, it’s a lot prettier (in Arkansas) and our certain circumstances changed,” she explained. “So we love being here.”
It’s people like Swiderski and Nasehi who the Northwest Arkansas Council hopes to attract from larger cities and the coasts, to get them to give NWA a shot.
“There’s so much to offer in Northwest Arkansas,” said Nelson Peacock, President and CEO of the NWA Council.
He said they started the “NWA Life Works Here” campaign about three years ago. It consists of video advertisements, social media ads and even billboards in big cities.
“We pick places like Seattle, Austin, Denver, Colorado, Minneapolis as a first step because that’s where the talent tech talent,” he said.
They are targeting that audience specifically with their campaign. He said Northwest Arkansas has a lack in the tech industry.
“We have a significant deficit there and also in tech talent, that is we need to kind of continue to drive the the region forward,” he said. “We need to work on our workforce programs and keeping some of the UA graduates around after they graduate. but we also know that we have a significant awareness problem in that demographic of tech talent.”
While it’s unclear how much the campaign has worked in actually getting people to move to Northwest Arkansas, he said the NWA Council has seen a 400% increase in traffic to the campaign website since starting.
There are some hard facts when it comes to the region’s growth. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows Bentonville was the fastest growing city in all of Arkansas from 2020 to 2021.
“I think that’s because of the quality of life experiences, the arts, and the outdoor amenities, those are key to what people are looking for when they relocate to an area,” said Kalene Griffith, President and CEO of Visit Bentonville.
She said that population this boom comes with its challenges.
“Keeping up from a housing perspective, even the infrastructure of your roads and how do you keep up with that?” she said.
The Bentonville Housing Authority is a group actively working to address the city’s growing housing problems, from affordability to quantity of houses. One of its goals is to make sure people who are working in Bentonville are able to live in the city too, and to keep them from having to find houses elsewhere around the region.
While city leaders work to keep up with the growth, Swiderski and Nasehi are working to build a community for people like themselves with their Instagram page called @NWATransplants.
Swiderski said when they were moving here, and they tried to find content social media about things to do and the vibe of the region, they couldn’t find anything, so that’s why they started their page.
“We’re not the only people to move to Arkansas and to be nervous about it and to be looking to find our community,” she said. “So we kind of wanted to be that branch for other people.”
While NWA may have been a stop along the way at first, Swiderski and Nasehi said this is where they are planning to stay.
“We’re just immersed here and I mean, we’re the NWA Transplants,” she said.