NW Arkansas Poised to Be Top 100 MSA

Northwest Arkansas is on pace to be one of the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas within three years, an analysis by the Northwest Arkansas Council shows.

The annual analysis is conducted after the U.S. Census Bureau releases new population estimates. The group of Census Bureau estimates, which showed the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers MSA (Northwest Arkansas) had 525,032 residents as of July 1, 2016, was made public today.

Cory Meyer of Modus Studio, the firm that designed Uptown Fayetteville Apartments + Shops, talks with a worker at the construction site.

Cory Meyer of Modus Studio, the firm that designed Uptown Fayetteville Apartments + Shops, talks with a worker at the construction site.

The bureau reported Northwest Arkansas is the 22nd fastest-growing metro in the U.S. It ranked 24th among 382 metropolitan areas last year.

As the nation’s 105th largest MSA, Northwest Arkansas’ population growth since 2010 suggests the region earlier this month slipped past No. 104 Portland, Maine, the Council’s analysis showed.

By late 2019, Northwest Arkansas should eclipse slower-growing Youngstown, Ohio; Lancaster, Pa.; Scranton, Pa.; and Modesto, Calif.

Northwest Arkansas, in fact, seems poised to move up even faster as the region’s population increase in the past two years (30.3 people per day in 2015 and 31.7 people per day in 2016) was faster than in 2012, 2013 and 2014. The region’s daily increase since April 2010 averages about 27 people.

The Council’s analysis assumes the number of people added each day to the populations of all MSAs since 2010 continues to be exactly the same in future years. It’s recalculated each year based on the most current Census Bureau estimates.

That growth has led to more construction of houses and housing complexes. Among the largest is the 308-unit Uptown Fayetteville Apartments + Shops that going up in a northern area of the city. The mixed-use development, which has a large section of apartment units on the south end that area already being occupied, will include 17,000 square feet of retail space.

 Remarkable job opportunities and quality of life amenities play important role in the region’s growth, making the region more attractive to people relocating to Northwest Arkansas.

Northwest Arkansas is known nationally as the home to three Fortune 500 companies (Walmart, Tyson Foods and J.B. Hunt), but many other Fortune 500 companies have employees based on the region to do business with Walmart. The Walmart suppliers with offices in the region include Procter & Gamble, Mondelez International, 3M, General Mills, Disney, Coca-Cola, Kimberly Clark, Johnson & Johnson, Hershey and more than 1,400 other companies.

The University of Arkansas, which has significantly increased its enrollment in recent years, helps fuel the region's growth, too.

Northwest Arkansas has benefitted from upgrades to its healthcare systems, investing $500 million into those improvements at Mercy Northwest Arkansas and Washington Regional Medical Center. As part of that investment, Arkansas Children’s Northwest, the state's second children's hospital, is under construction in Springdale.

Quality of life investments over the past decade are making the region more attractive to those considering relocating from elsewhere for job opportunities in Northwest Arkansas. Those investments include Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the Walmart AMPScott Family Amazeum, the Walton Arts Center expansion, Arvest Ballpark and the Razorback Regional Greenway.

Other information gleaned from the Census Bureau estimates includes the following:

  • Move-ins exceed births. It’s possible to see how Northwest Arkansas added 31.7 people a day to its population in the most recent year. The Census Bureau estimates show 21.5 more people move into the MSA than move away from it. Another 20 people are born in Northwest Arkansas. An average of 9.8 deaths occur each day in the region.
  • Outgrows Omaha, Cincinnati. Northwest Arkansas added more people between 2010 and 2016 than larger metropolitan areas, including Omaha-Council Bluffs, Durham-Chapel Hill, Cincinnati, Tulsa, Louisville and Little Rock.
  • Sits at No. 105 in nation. The Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers MSA increased its population by 61,828 residents between April 2010 and July 2016. That ranked 105th nationally.
  • Squeezes in a Rogers. The population increase in Northwest Arkansas between 2010 and July 2016 is roughly equal to adding a city the size of Rogers to the region.
  • Sees state’s highest percentage growth. The three Arkansas counties with the highest growth rates between July 2015 and July 2016 are all in Northwest Arkansas: Benton (2.98 percent), Madison (2.26 percent) and Washington (1.7 percent).
  • Ranks No. 1 in state; No. 88 in nation. Benton County added more people to its population between July 2015 and July 2016 that any Arkansas county. With a population of 258,291, just 87 of the nation’s more than 3,100 counties and parishes added more people. The Benton County population increased by 7,440 people.
  • Sees major growth in MSA’s smallest county. Census estimates show Northwest Arkansas’ Madison County added 355 people to increase to 16,072 residents. Only eight of the state’s other 74 counties added more people.  The state’s largest county — Pulaski — added 318 people.