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Our Work

Regional Growth

Northwest Arkansas is growing rapidly. The metropolitan statistical area, which consists of Benton, Madison and Washington counties, has a current population of 576,403 and is predicted to reach 1 million people by 2050.

Adding an estimated 36 people per day its population, Northwest Arkansas is the 18th fastest-growing metro in the U.S.

And while this growth trajectory is good news for the already booming economy, Northwest Arkansas is already feeling the impacts of rapid population growth. Rising housing costs, traffic and physical infrastructure issues threaten the quality of life for NWA residents.

As the region moves towards 1 million residents, leaders will need to work collaboratively to adopt smart growth policies that will accommodate this growth while preserving the character of the communities that make NWA special. While housing is the most visible challenge, many other issues need special consideration – including water and highway infrastructure, regional transit, along with efforts to reduce urban sprawl and preserve precious green space.

The Northwest Arkansas Council is collaborating with community leaders to develop an intentional strategy to address growth’s many challenges while also preserving and even enhancing what residents love about Northwest Arkansas.


To inform a community-led effort to address growth, the Council conducted public opinion research in January and February to gain insight that will shape a regional growth strategy.

The research identified four consistent concerns: infrastructure, traffic, housing and the need for leadership to devise and execute a growth strategy. Key survey findings are highlighted below.


Phone Poll

Conducted Jan. 19-23 of 505 registered voters in Benton and Washington counties.

Focus Groups

Four focus groups held Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. Participants were registered voters – half long-term and half short-term residents.

1-on-1 Interviews

One-on-one interviews with mayors, county judges and community leaders.

Online Survey

Online survey of 2,120 people, conducted in English and Spanish.


A strong majority (70%) of Northwest Arkansas residents believe the region is heading in the right direction and rate its quality of life as good or excellent (83%). However, when looking to the future, most residents believe the quality of life is not improving (46%) or getting worse (26%). Of those surveyed, 27% believe the quality of life is improving.

Rated Aspects of Quality of Life*

*Percentage of residents rating the aspect good or excellent


The majority (71%) of residents believe the shortage of affordable housing is the biggest challenge facing Northwest Arkansas, followed by traffic congestion (64%) and destruction of green space (40%).


When identifying the top priorities for growth planning strategies, residents were clear that regional leaders should focus their efforts on improving physical and social infrastructure. Residents were split on their views of future growth with most residents (55%) saying growth has more upsides than downsides.

Top Priorities for Growth Planning Strategies


61% of survey participants said they would not oppose a tax if they felt the planned project benefited the community.


Northwest Arkansas residents feel invested in Northwest Arkansas’ future and believe regional leaders must act now to address regional growth to preserve what residents love about the region.

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Special thanks to our major investors for their support of the Northwest Arkansas Council and our work in the region: