Northwest Arkansas Region Report Shows Continued Economic Growth

Employment in Northwest Arkansas grew by 3 percent from 2011 to 2012, a rate that outstripped the growth rate in peer regions, the state and the nation, the third State of the Northwest Arkansas Region Report shows.

The Center for Business and Economic Research in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, in collaboration with the Northwest Arkansas Council, released the report. The complete 2013 State of the Northwest Arkansas Region Report is available on the Northwest Arkansas Council's website homepage.

Kathy Deck, director of the Center for Business and Economic research, said this year’s report contains key findings about the position of the Northwest Arkansas economy. Highlights include:

·         At 3 percent, the pace of employment growth in Northwest Arkansas between 2011 and 2012 was almost twice as fast as the national rate and five times faster than employment growth in the state of Arkansas.

·         In 2011 and 2012, the number of businesses established in the region grew slowly after declining in 2009 and 2010.

·         When compared to competitor regions, Northwest Arkansas was tied with the Tulsa region at 5.6 percent for the second lowest unemployment rate in 2012.

·         From 2007 to 2011, the real gross domestic product in the Northwest Arkansas region grew 7 percent.

·         Research expenditures at the University of Arkansas increased 12.7 percent from 2007 to 2010, giving the state’s flagship institution a rank of 135 among all universities.
·         Nearly 28 percent of adults in Northwest Arkansas had attained a bachelor’s degree or higher by 2011, while just over 20 percent of the state’s adult population had advanced degrees.

“The third annual State of the Northwest Arkansas Region Report continues to serve as a tool for evaluating the economic performance of the region in comparison with peer regions that are most likely to compete with Northwest Arkansas,” Deck said. “The report highlights the region’s strengths and puts a focus on areas where our competiveness lags behind our peers. The report demonstrates that employment growth in Northwest Arkansascontinues to be the region’s most outstanding feature and that our economic development focus should be on improving establishment growth, adult educational attainment and the acquisition of federal research dollars.”

The primary purpose of the report is to provide solid information about the region’s relative position in terms of economic development opportunities. The report is distributed to leaders from business, academia and government in the region. Its stated goal is solid and sustainable economic development in Arkansas.

"The State of the Northwest Arkansas Region Report is designed to help our community leaders make informed decisions," Deck said.

Mike Malone, president and chief executive officer of the Northwest Arkansas Council, said the council works with the University of Arkansas to create the annual State of the Northwest Arkansas Region Report.

“It’s the partnership with the University of Arkansas and the ongoing support of our members, such as Walmart’s announcement of support last week, that make it possible to closely track how we are doing and compare ourselves to other places,” Malone said. “We recognize the State of the Northwest Arkansas Region Report doesn’t always show dramatic changes from year to year, but as long as the overall, long-term trend is one of improvement in key categories, we can feel good about how our region is advancing.”