Northwest Arkansas ranks as one of the nation’s Most Dynamic Metropolitans, a new report shows.
The region ranks No. 2 among all the nation’s medium-sized metropolitan areas, research made public today by the Walton Family Foundation reveals. Provo, Utah ranks No. 1; Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida is No. 3.
Northwest Arkansas ranks No. 17 among all metropolitan areas in the U.S.
“The data show that a knowledge-based economy is key to unlocking economic potential in metropolitan areas across the United States,” said Ross DeVol, a former chief research officer of the Milken Institute who is now a Walton Fellow. “Cities making investments in a knowledge-based economy have performed better economically than those that have not.
“Technology sectors are under-represented, and too little emphasis is placed on supporting entrepreneurs in Heartland metropolitan areas. Investors must be willing to support early-stage firms, and more universities need to embrace commercialization as a critical part of their mission and educational attainment, particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) for economic progress in the Heartland and throughout the nation.”
Northwest Arkansas over the past two years made significant strides to advance its investment in entrepreneurs.
The improvements include the Northwest Arkansas Council coming to an agreement that will bring Plug and Play to the region before the end of the summer. The Plug and Play team will work with Walmart, Tyson Foods, J.B. Hunt Transport Services and the University of Arkansas to address supply chain and logistics challenges faced by the companies, bringing some of the nation’s top supply chain- and logistics-focused entrepreneurs to the region over a three-year period.
Other important steps to support entrepreneurs include WeWork Companies Inc.’s decision to expand to the region as it’s planning to erect a 200,000-square-foot building south of downtown Bentonville. The company provides shared office spaces at 425 locations in 27 countries.
Northwest Arkansas also saw the global organization Endeavor in March announce that it would create a new office in Northwest Arkansas. A $2 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation will enable Endeavor to go to work. Endeavor NWA will focus on selecting high-impact entrepreneurs and businesses from multiple sectors that have the potential to scale significantly and reinvest back into the country by mentoring and providing financial support for future entrepreneurs.
There are also some important steps being taken at the University of Arkansas, which created an Office of Economic Development in early 2018. The establishment of the office came after a two-year strategic planning process that identified a need for the university to amplify its long-established role in the state’s economic success. The office works to expand economic opportunity and prosperity in Arkansas through talent development, innovative research and technologies, community service and placemaking strategies.
In the dynamic metropolitans report, each metropolitan area is ranked and reviewed on performance-based metrics, such as job growth, income gains, and the proportion of total jobs at young firms – a key measure of entrepreneurial performance. This is the first time that such research has been undertaken in this scope.