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News Around Northwest Arkansas Region and the State of Arkansas

Walton Family Foundation Invests in Northwest Arkansas (August, 2014)

The Walton Family Foundation announced its grant-making plan through 2020 which includes an anticipated investment of more than $302 million in Northwest Arkansas and the Delta region of Arkansas and Mississippi.  Four initiatives make up the Northwest Arkansas investment strategy.  They are:
a) Expand high achieving PreK-12 school options
b) Establish the region as a leader in arts and cultural amenities
c) Strengthen coordinated regional economic development
d) Preserve a sense of place

Northwest Arkansas Ranks 3r in Growth Study (June, 2014)

The Fayetteville MSA is growing.  In fact, its economy grew by 3.8% in 2013.  It is projected to grow at 4.2% annually between 2013 an 2020 thus making it one of the top metropolitan areas in the nation.   Northwest Arkansas' "gross metropolitan product" ranked #3 for the 2013-2020 projection period, behind Austin, TX at 4.4% and Raleigh, NC at 4.3%.  This is according to a report by the US Conference of Mayors and prepared by IHS Global Insight.  The study included 363 cities.

Northwest Arkansas on Track to Reach 500,000 population (May, 2014)

Northwest Arkansas statistical area which includes Benton, Washington, and Madison counties in Arkansas, and McDonald county in MO, is set to reach 500,000 population end of May.  The region has been growing 24 people each day since Census 2010.  The area has more than doubled its population since 1990.  The significance of reaching this milestone is that many companies use the 500,000 population benchmark as an early way to narrow down a list of locations for relocation or expansion purposes.  Northwest Arkansas is currently ranked #106 as the largest Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). 

New Home Occupancy Up 60% in Northwest Arkansas (March, 2014)

The latest Skyline Report from Arvest Bank showed that new home occupancy went up 60.7% in the second half of 2013.  According to this latest report, 1, 279 new houses in Washington and Benton counties were occupied during the second half of 2013.  Residential building permits in Washington and Benton counties had also gone up during the same period.  During the last 6 months of 2013, 1,094 permits were issued compared to 982 during the same period in 2012.  The average value of the permits increased to $244,575, up 3.3% from $236,731 a year ago.   Houses in Washington County sold for an average price of $186,493, up 7.2% from $173,979 a year ago. 

Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers MSA 2nd in Short Term Job Growth in the Country (January, 2014)

Northwest Arkansas Metro is ranked 2nd in the nation in Short Term Job Growth, according to the annual Milken Institute's Best Performing Cities 2013 rankings.  Milken defines Short-Term Job Growth as the percentage of job growth between July 2012 and July 2013.  Santa Cruz, CA, is ranked #1 in creating short term job growth amongst the nation's largest 200 metroplitan areas.  Fayetteville MSA also ranks high in Milken's review of job creation over a longer period of time, rating 34th in 5-year Job Growth.  In the last 24 months, Arkansas's 10 largest cities created 6,577 new jobs.  Northwest Arkansas cities--Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Bentonville combined to create 6,176 or 94% of those jobs.  The region also is ranked in the top 100 regions for 1-year (90th) and 5-year (27th) wages and salaries growth. 

Arkansas Among Leading States in the Country in Tax Revenue Recovery (January, 2014)

According to the findings of a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the financial health of the 50 US states has improved since the official end of the Great Recession in June 2009.  The report "Fiscal 50: State Trends and Analysis" noted that most of the states have not not yet regained all that was lost during the downturn.  The good news is that 14 states' tax revenues had recovered from the Great Recession by the first quarter of 2013 after adjusting for inflation.  Arkansas was one of those 14 states that experienced a recovery in tax revenue and with an increase of 3.8%.

Source: Arkansas Business

Six New Highway Projects Coming To Northwest Arkansas (July, 2013)

The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department announced six projects that will be in Northwest Arkansas.  They include three sections of the Bella Vista Bypass which will give drivers a stoplight-free stretch of road between the Missouri border and I-40; Phase 1 of the Springdale Northern bypass from I-540 to AR Hwy 112; and two stretches of I-540 where new lanes will be added.
The timeline for the projects are:

1) Bella Vista Bypass--I-540 interchange--Late 2013
2) Bella Vista Bypass--US 71 to AR Hwy 72--Late 2013
3) Bella Vista Bypass--Benton County 34 to Missouri line--Early 2014
4) Springdale Northern Bypass--I-540 to AR Hway 112--Late 2014
5) I-540 Widening--SE 14th St to E Central Ave--Early 2015
6) I-540 Widening--Fulbright Expressway to Sunset Ave--Mid 2015

AHTD also opened bids for I-540 widening between Wedington Dr and Porter Rd in Fayetteville.  This project could begin in August and wrap up by early 2015.

Serco Inc. Coming to Rogers, Arkansas (July, 2013)

Serco Inc., a British company, has signed a lease for roughly 150,000 SF of the 217,000 SF building that once housed Emerson Electric Co. at 1315 N 13th St. in Rogers.  Serco's domestic operations is headquartered in Reston, VA.  Serco is a leading provider of professional, technology and management services focused on the federal government.  This will be a mail center for exchanges to roll out President Obama's healthcare law and is set to hire between 500-800 employees. 

Serco Inc. employes some 9,000 employees with an annual revenue of $1.5 billion and is part of a $6.6 billion global business called Serco Group. 

Arkansas Adds Two More Firms In The New Fortune 500 LineUp (May, 2013)

The new Fortune 500 list of largest US companies by revenues included two more businesses from Arkansas.  Windstream Corp of Little Rock and JB Hunt Transport Services, Inc of Lowell were the newest additions.  The 2013 rankings based on 2012 revenues also saw Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. of Bentonville retaining the top spot.  Together, Arkansas now has 6 companies on this prestigious list.  They are Wal-Mart Stores at #1; Tyson Foods Inc. at #93, Murphy Oil Corp. of El Dorado at #104, Dillard's Inc. of Little Rock at #378, Windstream Corp at #414 and JB Hunt Transport Services at #486.  Of the six, three are located in northwest Arkansas.  Arkansas has more Fortune 500 companies than 28 states.

Arkansas passed Energy Savings Program (April, 2013)

A new law, Act 1074, could make it easier for Arkansans to make energy efficiency improvements to their homes of businesses.  Act 1074 enables cities, counties or the state to create energy improvemnt districts to allow for Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing.
The improvement districts would have the authority to issue tax-exempt bonds which generate money to loan to property owners to carry out projects that help them save energy.  The projects may be to install solar panels or to add energy efficient lighting, insulation, roofs or water heaters.  The benefits from the program include decreasing the cost of loans for energy efficiency improvements, create jobs and stimulate the economy, reduce the cost of energy to the owners, result in better cash flow for businesses, increase the value of properties, protect air quality and preserve natural resources.

Northwest Arkansas Housing Market On The Rebound (March, 2013)

Northwest Arkansas residential real estate market continued to show positive signs in the last six months of the year, as reported by Kathy Deck, director of Walton College's Center for Business and Economic Research.  Building permits issued during this period showed a 53% increase from the same period in 2011.  There were 980 permits in 2012 compared to 642 in 2011.  Average value of the permits was on the rise, reaching $236,731 which is a 10% increase from the same period in 2011.  Existing home sales also saw an increase in average price.  Benton County saw an average sale price for homes at $186,963 while in Washington County, it was $161,150.  Homes sold on the average of $80.56 per square foot in Benton County and $84.12 in Washington County.

Arkansas Jobless Rate Fell to 7 Percent (January, 2013)

Arkansas Department of Workforce Services announced that Arkansas' unemployment rate fell to 7% in November, 2012.  This is a decrease of two-tenths of a percentage point from October's 7.2% rate.  Nationally, the country unemployment rate fell two-tenths as well, from 7.9 to 7.7%.  Arkansas' unemployment rate has trended downward so far in 2012, moving from a high of 7.6% in January and February to a low of 7.0% in November.  Industry sectors that lost jobs in the state in November include leisure and hospitality, which saw an expected seasonal decline of 2,300 jobs; professional and business services, which also saw a loss of 2,300 jobs, and construction, which lost 1,500 jobs.  Gains were seen in trade, transportation and utilities with an increase of 4,900 jobs, mostly attributed to the start of the holiday shopping season.

Foreclosure Home Sales Drop (September, 2012)

Area foreclosure sales dropped almost 63% in the second quarter this year compared to the same period last year.  There were 129 foreclosure sales recorded in Benton and Washington counties April 1 through June 30.  This was down from 346 recorded the same period a year ago.  Sales also dropped 16.8% from the first three months of the year.  The average price paid for a foreclosed home was $107,330 and $101,600 in Benton and Washington counties respectively.  The second quarter average price in the state was $113,878 and $170,040 in the country. 

Area Employment Returns to 2007 Level (August 3, 2012)

Northwest Arkansas region has recovered the jobs that were lost during the recession, according to preliminary June numbers from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.  In June, nonfarm employment reached 211,100 in the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers MSA which encompasses Washington, Benton, Madison and McDonald, MO, counties.  In November of 2007, the number was 210,700.  The improved job numbers were due to growth in the leisure and hospitality, health care, and professional and business services sectors.

Jobless Rate Inched Up A Little for the State (June, 2012)

Arkansas' unemployment rate inched up slightly in May, driven in part by more people re-entering the workforce and seeking jobs.  Unemployment rate for May was 7.3%, up from 7.2% in April.  This was down from 8.1% in May 2011.  Some 101,000 people were unemployed in May, up from 100,700 in April but down from 110,500 in May 2011.  Unemployment rate does not include those who are not working and not seeking employment. 

Nationally, unemployment rate rose to 8.2% in May compared to 8.1% in April.  Manufacturing, professional and business services, financial activities, and construction business jobs were down while government sector and educational and health services added jobs. 

Northwest Arkansas Ranks 15th for Growth from '00-'10 (March, 2012)

Northwest Arkansas' population grew at among the fastest rates in the country from 2000 to 2010, according to new information releaased by the US Census.  The region's urbanized growth rate ranked 15th among the top 20 fastest growing urbanized areas in the country.  No other urbanized area in Arkansas ranked in the top 20.  The report shows that urban areas account for 80.7% of the US population.  In Arkansas, the urban population accounts for 56.2% of the population with 39.5% living in urbanized areas.  Urbanized areas are areas with at least 50,000 people while urban population consists of "urban clusters" of at least 2,500 people.  Urbanized areas are based on population density of census blocks and do not follow established boundaries for cities and counties.

Asian Population Increases (March, 2012)

Asian Indian residents have surpassed Vietnamese residents as the dominant Asian group in Arkansas.  The US Census Bureau released a new report that Arkansas had a 77% increase in its Asian population from 2000 to 2010 and that the Asian population was the fastest growing race group in the nation.  Eight Arkansas counties--Benton, Craighead, Crawford, Faulkner, Pulaski, Saline, Sebastian, and Washington--had at least 1,000 Asian residents in 2010, compared to four--Benton, Pulaski, Sebastian, and Washington--in 2000.  Pulaski county has the highest number of Asian residents in both 2000 and 2010, with 9,232 in 2010.  Benton county experienced the most growth, a 269% increase in its Asian population.  It grew from 2,012 in 2000 to 7,428 in 2010, according to the 2010 census.

Vehicle Registrations Up Again In State (March, 2012)

Vehicle registrations jumped significantly in February compared with the same month last year.  It was the 17th consecutive month of increased registrations on a year-over-year basis.  There was 6,968 new registrations in February, an increase of 57% from 4,448 in February 2011.  Year-to-year registrations saw an increase of 26%, from 67,500 in March 2010 through February 2011 to 85,300 registration from March 2011 to February 2012.  Sales nationally was also robust in February, though the increase was not as high as Arkansas' growth rate.

Area School Districts To Submit Technology Plans (March, 2012)

Northwest Arkansas school districts will submit their three-year technology plans to the Arkansas Department of Education in March.  Schools are required to draft plans to the state in order to receive federal school technology money.  School districts plan to increase internet access, teacher training, and the number of computers, laptops, and tablets in classes.  The Fayetteville School District plans to spend $10 million on technology over the next three years.  Administrators can cover about $8 million leaving them to search for the remaining $2.1 million in the form of grants or federal programs to pay for the technology plan.  Springdale plans to spend $25 million over the next 3 years, Rogers would have to pay $11.9 million while Bentonville plans to spend about $20 million in technology money over the next three years. 

Lincoln High Set To Open In August (March, 2012)

Lincoln High School and its athlete complex is proceeding well.  The facilities are set to open in August.  The project was made possible by a 2.9 mil property tax increase in 2010 that was approved by District voters. The tax increase is expected to generate $700,000 to help pay back $6 million in qualified school construction bonds.  The state also contributed $5.3 million towards the construction.  The 100,000 SF facility will serve eigth through 12th grades.  The school will have state-of-the-art classrooms for science, technlogy, engineering and math labs as part of the new Tech program which will be launched schoolwide next year.  The program offers integrated courses and student-led project-based learning with emphasis on real-world experiences. 

The vocational area will include an agriculture building, a classroom for food science classes, and two green houses, one of which will be used for hydroponics gardening.  Students also will have opportunities for some industry certification courses. 

State To Get $4.9 Million To Train Nurses (February, 2012)

The Arkansas Department of Workforce Services has received a $4.9 million federal grant to train more than 1,500 residents to become nurses.  Arkansas is one of 43 states that received more than $183 million.  UAMS Medical Center, Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges, Arkansas State Board of Nursing, Arkansas Hospital Association, Arkansas Health Care Association, Arkansas Chamber of Commerce, and the Arkansas Community Foundation are partners with the Workforce Services to implement this grant.  The project will target qualified individuals who are on waiting lists to enter nursing programs, unemployed and dislocated workers, and those currently working the healthcare fields and are looking to further their education.

Area Foreclosures Continue to Slide (February, 2012

Foreclosures in northwest Arkansas remained at significantly lower rates than a year ago. Last month, Washington and Benton counties had 110 foreclosures in the pipelines compared to 711 reported in January, 2011. This was a decrease of 84.53%. Nationally, foreclosures were down 19% from January 2011. While overall foreclosure activity was down from a year ago for the 16th straight month in January, this might be partly due to a frozen-up foreclosure process. One factor holding up the state's foreclosures was a September 29th ruling by US District Judge Audrey Evans that allowed lenders "authorized to do business in the state" to use nonjudicial method of foreclosure. Banks are challenging this ruling. Another factor that might impact foreclosures was the recent mortgage settlement. Five of the largest mortgage providers in the nation reached an agreement with the federal government and 49 state attorneys general to provide about $25 billion in relief. The state of Arkansas would receive $39.4 million. These monies would be used to pay first and second-lien principal reduction and other forms of loan modification relief; to refinance loans for underwater borrowers; to help those who lost their homes to foreclosure between January 2008 and December 2011 and to government agencies that offer housing assistance and legal help.

Harding University Plans Permanent Campus (January, 2012)

The Harding University satellite campus in Bentonville is building a permanent home in Rogers.  The site will be at 901 S. 52nd St. in Rogers and the building will be 12,000 SF with room on the site for expansion.  The Harding campus offers nontraditional students who do not have time to return to the classroom full time to complete a bachelor's or master's degree.  Students who have 60 hours of college credit can take evening and weekend classes or work online to receive a teaching or business degree.  The local campus cuurently has an enrollment of about 350 students. 



Fayetteville, AR makes the Top Lists  

#4:    10 Cheapest US Cities to Live in by Kiplinger (June 2012)

No. 5: Best Cities for Mid-Career Professionals by Kiplinger (2012)

Fayetteville Named a Top 10 BBQ City by Livability.com (2012)

City of Fayetteville made The Wall Street Journal's SmartMoney "Retire Here, Not There" list.  The series recognizes the top four destinations in each state.  For Arkansas, Fayetteville received recognition along with Bella Vista, Hot Springs, and Conway (2012). 

U of A ranked among the top 108 (top 2%) universities to receive the Highest Classification awarded to colleges across the US by the Carnegie Foundation for The Advancement of Teaching.

Top 100 Leading Locations for 2011 by Area Development Magazine.

Fayetteville High School named to Newsweek's 2010 Best US High School List.

No. 15: Best Places to Retire, CNN Money.com

Top 25: University of Arkansas' Supply Chain Management and Logistics Specialty in "2011 America's Best Colleges" guide, US News and World Report

No. 15: Fayetteville led the way for Arkansas in Forbes' annual list of the top 100 metropolitan areas in the nation for businesses and careers. 

Top Tier: University of Arkansas' Sam M. Walton College of Business and the School of Law in the 2011 edition of America's Best Graduate School, US News and World Report 

No. 7: Top College Sports Towns, 2010 Forbes

No. 4: Best Places for Business and Careers, 2009 Forbes

No. 9: Healthiest Housing Markets, 2009, Builder magazine

No. 6: Top College Sports Towns, 2009 Forbes

No. 7: Best Places to Live, Work and Play, 2008, Kiplinger

No. 2: Best Cities for Recession Recovery, 2009, Forbes.com

No. 6: Smarter Cities Ranking, 2009, Natural Resources Defense Council 

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