Tyson Foods, Walmart Foundation Invest in EngageNWA Inclusion Efforts

With strong financial support from Tyson Foods and Walmart Foundation, EngageNWA launched its strategic plan with the goal to enhance the region’s ability to ensure an inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone who makes Northwest Arkansas home. 

Details of the four-year EngageNWA Strategic Plan were announced today at a news conference at The Jones Center in Springdale. The plan includes initiatives to move Northwest Arkansas forward in five key areas: economic development, government, civic engagement, safe and connected communities, and education.  

“The work by EngageNWA is a critical component of our overall economic development plan for the region,” said Nelson Peacock, president and CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Council. EngageNWA operates as part of the Council.

“For Northwest Arkansas to continue ranking among the nation’s best places to live and work, we need everyone to feel a strong connection to our community,” Peacock said.

The demographics of Northwest Arkansas have changed dramatically over three decades, transitioning from a region with 4 percent of people who were nonwhite in 1990 to one that’s expected to be 31 percent nonwhite by 2022, a report published earlier this year by EngageNWA showed. The region’s Hispanic/Latino, Asian, African-American and Pacific Islander populations are expected to increase in the coming years.

 “It’s clear from the close to 200 stakeholders who participated in the plan’s development this past year that many members of our community, particularly those from diverse populations, want a stronger connection to the broader Northwest Arkansas community and have access to the resources they need,” said Margot Lemaster, EngageNWA’s executive director.  

Regional challenges in the strategic plan include theneed to attract, grow and retain workers, a shortage of diverse representation in the region’s leadership, a gap in newcomers’ understanding of local systems and how to access services, and the need for improved cross-cultural communication and cultural awareness.

 “Since its founding, the Northwest Arkansas Council has collaborated with Walmart and the Walmart Foundation to enhance the quality of life in the region,” said Julie Gehrki, Vice President of Walmart Foundation.“This plan outlines bold steps for regional partners to work together toward the common goal of ensuring everyone has the opportunity to thrive.  We are proud to join fellow business leaders like Tyson Foods in announcing our continued support of the Council and EngageNWA.”

The Walmart Foundation provided a $450,000 grant to the Northwest Arkansas Council to support the Council’s efforts to accelerate regional diversity and inclusion programs through the work of EngageNWA, specifically the strategic planning process. In addition, the grant supports the Council’s leadership and regional stewardship efforts to implement aspects of its strategic plan as well as an annual survey of more than 450 companies in partnership with chamber of commerce partners to collect and aggregate data on the region’s workforce and economic development needs.

A Tyson Foods Community Cornerstone Grant of $262,466 is helping five recipients carry out key aspects of the EngageNWA plan. 

“Today’s announcement reinforces the shared values of our community that we’re so proud to be a part of,” said Hector Gonzalez, vice president, human resources for Tyson Foods. “By investing in a range of community partners, we’re taking the next step toward reaching our goal of recruiting, retaining and engaging the most diverse and skilled group of team members possible.”

  Hector Gonzalez, a vice president, human resources at Tyson Foods, talked today about the company's commitment to embrace the diversity of its team members and the communities where team members live and work.

Hector Gonzalez, a vice president, human resources at Tyson Foods, talked today about the company's commitment to embrace the diversity of its team members and the communities where team members live and work.

Key initiatives for the Tyson Foods grant recipient include:

  • The City of Springdale was awarded $96,400 to (1) convene underrepresented residents for a community forum to solicit input about the city’s future, (2) implement a civic academy to teach residents about accessing and engaging with city services and leadership opportunities, (3) hire an individual to manage the city’s Welcoming Communities efforts, and (4) create videos and documents in English, Spanish and Marshallese about how to access services and stay safe.

  • EngageNWA was awarded $63,681 to manage the grant and to (1) develop a program that identifies, trains and help connect qualified individuals to leadership roles;(2) create a unified voice for regional inclusion efforts through a communications campaign; (3) convene community cohesion forums to bring together a diverse group of Northwest Arkansas residents; and (4) coordinate diversity and inclusion training for different sectors.

  • CanopyNWA was awarded $37,979 to provide a community orientation workshop series for newcomers about how to navigate key community systems and to pair new arrivals with established community members through a mentor program to help them connect to the community and reach their objectives.

  • Welcoming America was awarded $40,000 to work with the cities of Fayetteville and Springdale to meet the indicators of at least two areas of the Welcoming Standard.

  • Teen Action and Support Center was awarded $24,406 to increase access to services for Spanish and Marshallese speakers by providing culturally sensitive translators for services and by translating key service materials.

The work by EngageNWA and its partners is a key aspect of the Greater Northwest Arkansas Development Strategy, a plan that guides the Northwest Arkansas Council’s overall work that was made public on July 10.

Pictured at the top: Julie Gerhrki, a vice president of the Walmart Foundation, told a crowd of about 100 people at the Jones Center about the foundation's belief that diversity and inclusion contribute to stronger communities.