A large regional survey of employers showed they plan to hire more than 2,000 new workers over the next three years, Northwest Arkansas Chambers of Commerce and the Northwest Arkansas Council announced today.
The information, which was collected in 529 face-to-face interviews in 2013 by outreach specialists from Chambers of Commerce in Bentonville/Bella Vista, Fayetteville, Rogers-Lowell, Siloam Springs and Springdale, is part of the annual Employer Retention and Expansion (ER&E) program. The program started in 2012.
Among the most significant findings in the 2013 survey:
- Employers plan to hire 2,037 new workers in the next three years. Employers surveyed in 2012 expected to fill 965 new positions over three years.
- Employers plan to invest $195 million in expansions over three years. Employers in 2012 said they planned to invest $808 million in expansions over three years. Most of the 2012 amount was part of the Flint Creek Power Plant’s environmental retrofit.
- Employers identified more than three times as many “community strengths” as “community weaknesses” when asked about Northwest Arkansas. The “strengths-to-weaknesses” ratio was similar in 2012.
- Respondents gave Northwest Arkansas high marks for its business climate, vibrant economy and quality of life.
- Respondents listed infrastructure, skilled labor availability and transportation as top concerns.
The ER&E program allows outreach specialists to conduct structured, face-to-face interviews with a representative of the leadership teams at businesses, nonprofit organizations and local governments. The responses are entered into the Synchronist Business Information System database maintained by the Northwest Arkansas Council. Synchronist allows the Council to track the information provided by the companies to periodically review the feedback.
“By collecting this information, it allows the Chambers of Commerce and the Council to go to work on issues that are affecting employers in a specific community or to work to address regional challenges,” said Mike Harvey, the Council’s chief operating officer.
There are many examples of specific tasks taken on by area Chambers of Commerce because needs were identified during ER&E interviews. For instance, the Siloam Springs Chamber of Commerce helped a company with employees making job transfers from another state by arranging school visits and meeting with real-estate agents, and by setting up community tours. Similarly, the Springdale Chamber of Commerce helped a retiring business owner find a buyer for his building, and the building’s new owner now employs more people than he did at his previous location.
The Northwest Arkansas Council is working on several regional issues raised during ER&E interviews in 2012 and 2013. Those include working with the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport to bring new service as well as assisting Ozark Regional Transit with its goal of expanding its bus routes in Northwest Arkansas cities and counties.
The full ER&E report released to the media today describes hundreds of findings.
The chambers of commerce have a goal of contacting 450 businesses this year.