The Milken Institute earlier today returned Northwest Arkansas to its Top 25 Best-Performing Cities, releasing a report that showed the strength of the region’s economy compared to all the nation’s metropolitan statistical areas.
Northwest Arkansas (the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers MSA) moved up five spots and now sits at No. 25 in the annual ranking. The ranking is based on each large metropolitan area’s job growth, wage growth, high-tech job growth and high-tech wage growth.
It’s the region’s best Milken showing since 2015 when Northwest Arkansas came in at No. 24. Northwest Arkansas ranked No. 1 overall in the 2003 Milken report.
The institute ranks Northwest Arkansas and other large metropolitan areas separate from smaller ones. The nation’s Top 3 large metros were Provo, Utah; Raleigh; and Dallas. The full 2017 report provides insight into what’s happening in all of the nation’s metropolitan areas.
Northwest Arkansas’ economy is led by three Fortune 500 companies with headquarters in the region and by the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. The companies and the university continue to make new investments that bode well for the region’s future.
Walmart, for example, announced late last year that it will create a new headquarters location in Bentonville, pulling thousands of employees onto an entirely new campus in five to seven years.
Tyson Foods made a major, new investment into Springdale, locating its technology hub in the city’s downtown. That project finished up in 2017.
J.B. Hunt Transport Services in Lowell, meanwhile, completed a project last year that will lead to more than 1,000 new jobs in the region over a six-year period.
In its 2017 report, Milken noted Northwest Arkansas performed well is some key areas of job growth. It was 8th nationally in its job growth rate from 2011-16, and it was 11th in its 2015-2016 job growth.
Northwest Arkansas’ overall ranking was better than all large metropolitan statistical areas in Arkansas and in four adjoining state: Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Oklahoma. No. 8 Nashville in Tennessee and three large Texas metros (No. 3 Dallas, No. 9 Austin and No. 19 San Antonio) ranked higher.
Northwest Arkansas outperformed three of its five peer regions, too. The Northwest Arkansas Council benchmarks the region’s economic performance against those five metropolitan areas: No. 2 Raleigh, No. 9 Austin, No. 56 Des Moines, No. 58 Madison and No. 106 Durham-Chapel Hill.
Arkansas had several other metropolitan areas among the hundreds across the U.S. that were considered by Milken researchers.
Jonesboro led Arkansas’ small MSAs, sitting at No. 46. Hot Springs moved up from No. 115 last year to No. 88 and so did Texarkana (from No. 183 to No. 158).
The state has three other large MSAs that include at least portions of Arkansas. Memphis (No. 148), Little Rock (No. 165) and Fort Smith (No. 193) were each part of the Milken report.
The Milken Institute in Santa Monica, Calif., is a nonprofit, nonpartisan economic think tank that advances innovative economic and policy solutions that create jobs, widen access to capital, and enhance health.