Once a rural community, Northwest Arkansas is now a blossoming corner of the country. Between Walmart, Tyson, JB Hunt and Murphy Oil—four Fortune 500 companies—and the influence of Crystal Bridges, it is the third fastest growing region in the country.
Researchers say that 30 people a day move to Northwest Arkansas and that “Benton County has doubled its population in the last 15 years…Springdale has seen its population increase a whopping 67% in the last 15 years rising to 76,565. The population of Rogers has grown 58% since 2000 to 61,464 residents as of 2015, according to the CBRE report,” according to Talk Business and Politics.
Additionally, Northwest Arkansas’ income growth has outpaced most other U.S. metros, and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that “Northwest Arkansas’ per capita income was $50,686 in 2014. Only Houston had a higher per capita income level,” according to Talk Business and Politics.
Two universities are also nestled in the hills of the Ozarks: The University of Arkansas, with 27,194 students enrolled, and John Brown University, with 2,183.
In recent years, students’ desire to stay in the area has increased due to the growth and prosperity of NWA.
Brad Edwards, Director of Alumni and Parent Relations at JBU, said that JBU has close to 2,500 known alumni within a 30-minute radius of campus. “If you were to broaden it to 45 minutes or an hour, it would jump to 5,000 or so. It’s fairly significant the number of people connected to JBU, even alumni, within an hour’s radius of Siloam Springs.”
Edwards, an alumnus himself, said the appeal for students to stay in NWA is related to the “job opportunities—not just with Walmart or in the vendor world. There are teaching opportunities, there are ministry opportunities, there’s a lot of non-profits in NWA. So, with growth comes construction, comes engineering opportunities … a perfect opportunity to continued growth and development.”
Kole Woodell, U of A graduate with a bachelor’s in business, said, “For me, coming out of college and being a business major, I felt like there was so much growth opportunity because of NWA and the vendors around here. What’s funny is that I started working in healthcare finance, which was unexpected. It just goes to show you there is a lot of opportunity in this area because of the growth in general.”
Woodell also said, “There are a lot of positions to be filled. I love the feel of this place. Though I love metropolitan areas like Kansas City or St. Louis, there is something really cool about this area having a lot going on but also having the woods and the environmental areas surrounding it.”
Elise Collingsworth, senior worship arts major, is graduating in May and is not planning to stay in NWA.
Collingsworth said, “I would love to go to grad school for student development. I would love to do that somewhere that is not JBU for diversity of thought and diversity of experience. A change of scenery sounds really nice.”
Collingsworth said she can see the trends of growth happening and thinks that NWA will be a completely different place in the next 15 years. Collingsworth loves NWA and could see herself returning to the area in the future to pursue a career in Student Development at a university, be it JBU or U of A.