The Northwest Arkansas Chambers of Commerce and the Northwest Arkansas Council earlier today released the results from an annual Employer Retention and Expansion (ER&E) survey.
The survey in 2014 included face-to-face interviews with 487 Northwest Arkanas employers. The survey was first conducted in 2012.
Employees of five Chambers of Commerce — Bentonville/Bella Vista, Fayetteville, Rogers-Lowell, Siloam Springs and Springdale — conduct the survey, asking for information about the companies, their challenges and their needs. Employees at the Chambers of Commerce and the Council then go about addressing those needs for individual companies and sometimes take on regionwide challenges based on what the employers say.
Better workforce development across the region was identified as one of the top needs among some of the region's largest employers.
Workforce development is a key element in a new regional three-year strategy announced by the Northwest Arknasas Council in January. The strategy prioritizes such things as developing “a pipeline of available workers that aligns with the demands of regional employers,” attracting “talent that meets employer needs for more immediately, specialized, or tenured positions,” and retaining new workers to reduce employer onboarding costs.
Other significant findings from the 487 ER&E surveys completed in 2014 were:
- Employers plan to hire 1,541 new workers over the next three years.
- Employers plan to invest $112 million in expansions over the next three years.
- The “Prime” survey participants identified community strengths over weaknesses by a 2-to-1 margin. Business climate as well as economic and community stability were among the strengths.
- The “CRTS” survey participants listed strengths over weaknesses by a 3-to-1 margin. Economic and community stability, quality of life and business climate were often cited as strengths. “CRTS” stands for Convention Retail Tourism and Service, and includes businesses such as restaurants, banks, insurance agencies, movie theaters and retail stores.
The survey responses are entered into the Synchronist Business Information System database maintained by the Northwest Arkansas Council. Synchronist allows the Council and the Chambers of Commerce to track the information provided by the companies and to periodically review the feedback.
“We’re to the point now where we are able to see trends that impact employers throughout the communities as well as identify situations that are unique to individual employers,” Harvey said. “The face-to-face interviews position the Chambers of Commerce in a way to assist employers based on what they’ve heard during the interviews, a give the local employer a trusted contact they can turn to if they ever need to address an issue they might be facing.”
The chambers of commerce were asked to contact 450 employers in 2014. The goal is the same for 2015.