Leaders Hold NWA's First Diversity Summit

The first regional Northwest Arkansas Diversity Summit was held Wednesday, providing organizers the opportunity to preview what will be the first diversity resource guide for Northwest Arkansas.

The summit, held at the Holiday Inn in Springdale, brought together about 75 people to discuss the role of diversity, inclusion and equity in Northwest Arkansas. Experts in the areas of education, community vitality and economic development were on hand to provide insight into the benefits of community diversity.

The resource guide will provide a full view of the region’s diversity through organizations, churches, businesses, clubs and events. It’s still in the development stage.

One of the 16 objectives in the Northwest Arkansas Regional Development Strategy, a blueprint for regional success unveiled in January 2011, is to “promote racial, cultural, and ethnic diversity in Northwest Arkansas and support quality of life enhancements by developing amenities that appeal to a variety of demographic groups.” One of the strategic actions suggested within that objective is to organize an annual regional diversity summit.

Northwest Arkansas’ population is becoming more diverse over time, and there’s no better example of that than the increases in the region’s minority populations.

U.S. Census Bureau statistics showed the Hispanic population in Benton and Washington counties was more than 15 percent of the region’s 434,000 residents in 2010. The state’s Hispanic population was 6.6 percent.

Springdale has the region’s greatest diversity. With about 71,000 residents, Springdale’s Hispanic population accounts for 35.4 percent of city residents, the Census Bureau estimates. The city’s population of Pacific Islanders, many of whom moved to the city from the Marshall Islands, is near 6 percent.

Rogers, which has a population near 58,000, is 31.5 percent Hispanic.

Two other cities — Lowell and Siloam Springs — have Hispanic populations that account for 20 percent of residents.

The two counties’ Asian population approaches 3 percent. The statewide Asian population is 1.3 percent.