Region's Businesses Ramp Up Hiring Plans

Results from one-on-one interviews of executives with 459 Northwest Arkansas companies last year show increasing optimism and promising payroll data.

The information, collected in the interviews by outreach specialists from chambers of commerce in Bentonville/Bella Vista, Fayetteville, Rogers-Lowell, Siloam Springs, and Springdale, was released today by the Northwest Arkansas Council, a private nonprofit organization that coordinates the Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) efforts with area chambers of commerce.

Other significant findings:

- Businesses plan to hire 965 new employees in the next three years.

- Businesses plan to invest $808 million in expansions in the next three years.

- Northwest Arkansas companies of all sizes are selling more often to international customers.

- Businesses identified three times as many "community strengths" as "community weaknesses" when asked about Northwest Arkansas.

- The respondents gave Northwest Arkansas high marks for business climate, quality of life, and education.

- The respondents identified infrastructure and the availability of skilled labor as top concerns.

The BRE program allows outreach specialists to conduct structured, confidential, face-to-face interviews with managers, executives and owners of area businesses. The responses are entered into the Synchronist Business Information System database maintained by the Northwest Arkansas Council. Synchronist allows the Council to closely track the information provided by the companies to periodically review the feedback.

"We want to achieve two objectives with the BRE program," said Mike Harvey, the Northwest Arkansas Council’s chief operating officer. "First, we want to provide assistance to individual companies as needed. Second, we want to identify data in the aggregate to identify negative trends.  If those negative trends are something we can mitigate, we improve the region’s business climate for everyone.

“Another benefit to the BRE program is that it builds on the strong relationships our chambers of commerce have with the businesses in their communities. It’s another way for the chambers to learn about the businesses in their communities, and it’s a way to remind businesses that the chambers and the Northwest Arkansas Council want to help make businesses of all sizes more successful."

The chambers of commerce will contact 450 businesses again this year.