Local World

Northwest Arkansas feels population boom

Northwest Arkansas is brimming with strip malls, half-built bridges and near-constant road work. What started out as a small area of 5,000 people in the middle of the Ozark hills has become a home to over three million people, according to the U.S. census. With all of the recent construction, NWA is pushing the boundaries of economics and growth.

Specifically, the business, economic and construction industries have grown a lot in NWA, said Brendan Culp, a John Brown University senior Construction Management major. “This growth in Northwest Arkansas means that companies have a lot of work on their plates and will need to hire more people to keep up,” Culp said. “If there is more work, there are more jobs, and that helps the economy.”

Income per capita, population and job increases all have a big impact on the quality of life in the NWA region. This sharp increase exists in the Fayetteville–Springdale–Rogers Metropolitan Statistical Area. The cities in this area all exist within the top ten sphere of the largest cities in the state of Arkansas.

“As of 2012, income per capita in Northwest Arkansas was about $36,000, about $6,000 below the national average. After adjusting for the lower cost of living in the region, per capita income in Northwest Arkansas was at that time, in effect, $40,000, just $2,000 shy of the national average,” according to The Regional Economist.

Talk Business, an economic news site, said that not only is there “no sign of the local economy slowing” in Northwest Arkansas, but that CBRE Real Estate’s most recent report on the region shows that “The center of gravity for the region has shifted from rooting for the University of Arkansas (UA) Razorbacks on Saturdays in the fall to becoming a major cultural and economic center of the South-Central U.S.”

This report focuses on population, payrolls, and planning in the NWA region and compiles information that shows that high paying jobs and the NWA economy are intertwined. The economy also pushes population growth and investments into the cities, schools, and businesses in the surrounding area.

Emily Pearce, JBU alumna and current small-business worker Siloam Springs, said she has seen exponential growth occurring in NWA since coming to JBU in August of 2013. “I think Siloam more specifically has grown in people, business, and getting on the map. . .In the past year, there have been many corporate business and restaurants that have opened,” Pearce said. “Downtown Siloam has grown with more small business, the destruction of the “Jesus Cave,” Creekside Taproom, Ash & Ember, (one day current JBU students, one day), Pour Jons relocating, The Foundry & Luxxe Loft and all the other small businesses. I love it! I also think about the AMP in Rogers opening, which has brought in a lot of big name bands and more options for going to shows.”

Pearce and Culp both believe that this expansion in NWA will bring about more job opportunities for JBU graduates.

The company Culp worked for this past summer had more projects than they had people which goes to show that economic growth is still occurring due to necessity of work. They are planning on building a new office in the next year and expect to hire more people. Along with these options for CM majors, the renovations on campus with Mayfield and the nursing building “are being done by Nabholz and they have a strong relationship with JBU and hire many JBU CM students,” Culp said.

“There is more to do know, better places to live, and more diversity. For current JBU students, there is more to adventure, which includes people. Step out from JBU and get to know new people and learn of what opportunities are right in front of you,” Pearce said.

Last year, NWA was the 22nd-fastest-growing metropolitan area in the country. Soon, it may be much higher on that list.

“There is still so much growth occurring. . .[it’s] an exciting time getting to adventure NWA in the midst of all the growth and new things,” Pearce said.

KATIE ARNOLD – Copy Desk Chief