Northwest Arkansas Ranks Among Country’s Top Metros

Two new rankings put Northwest Arkansas among the top metropolitan areas in the country, this time for its resilient and dynamic economy.

The Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers metro ranked No. 8 among the Milken Institute’s 2022 “Best Performing Cities,” which were announced last month, thanks to strong growth in jobs and wages, natural amenities, and a relatively high share of GDP coming from high-tech industries based on 2020 and 2021 data. That’s up from the No. 37 slot in 2020 and beat out No. 10 Dallas. Austin, the closest large city with a better ranking, came in at No. 2 behind Provo-Orem, Utah.

Earlier this month, Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers also ranked 21st in Heartland Forward’s Most Dynamic Metros, which factored in 2020 employment and wages as well as young business activity and the proportion of well-educated workers employed by those young businesses. Heartland Forward is a Bentonville-based think tank that aims to foster economic development in the nation’s midsection.

Northwest Arkansas regularly ranks highly nationwide in a wide variety of measures, reaching No. 4 among U.S. News and World Report’s best places to live in 2021

Like other reports, this most recent pair of rankings highlighted the region’s major employers such as Walmart, Tyson and J.B. Hunt, the presence of the University of Arkansas, and the region’s years of investment in mountain biking and other cultural opportunities. Northwest Arkansas’ per-capita personal income in 2020 was $75,000, No. 10 in the country, according to Heartland Forward.

“The region’s efforts to encourage development while maintaining quality of life continue to pay off in terms of economic vitality and strength,” said Northwest Arkansas Council President and CEO Nelson Peacock. “These rankings allow the region’s leaders to get a better understanding of existing challenges and work to improve so we continue to stay on top.”

The Milken Institute, a global nonprofit think tank, pointed to relatively high housing costs as a potential drag on the metro’s economy, ranking Northwest Arkansas 94th in housing affordability.

Housing has become a primary focus for the Northwest Arkansas Council and its partners. The Council last year created the Northwest Arkansas workforce housing center to facilitate the creation of attainable homes for all income levels as the area continues to grow. 

“Now is the time to prepare for smart, coordinated, planned and strategic growth,” housing center executive director Duke McLarty said. “If we don’t start this work now, if we don’t account for the continued growth before the next 10,000 or 100,000 people arrive, the quality of life that we all enjoy today will be at risk.”