Research & Reports
The Northwest Arkansas Council works with partners to produce comprehensive reports to provide insight into what’s happening in the region and how it’s changing.
Northwest Arkansas Annual Report
The Northwest Arkansas Council Annual Report is published each summer. It reviews the Council’s work over the previous year and describes some of the upcoming priorities. While the Annual Report highlights all the Council’s work, there are times when the Council digs deep to look at a specific issue or challenge in the region.
Previous versions of the Northwest Arkansas Annual Report are available below:
Northwest Arkansas Council Regional Strategy
Over the past decade, Northwest Arkansas developed a successful growth model and economic development track record, which has skyrocketed the region into national rankings for job growth, population growth, talent attraction and quality of life. But the fruits of that success created new challenges as rapidly rising housing prices
threaten to undermine the region’s affordable quality of life.
An intentional strategy is required to address these challenges while preserving and enhancing all the things residents love about Northwest Arkansas. The overarching goal of this strategy is to create an economic development future that is both vibrant and equitable, and that builds on the unique character and quality of life that has shaped the region’s economic development success.
The strategy is designed to address the region’s deepening housing affordability challenge, prioritize investments in key economic development initiatives and infrastructure, and ensure that opportunity remains inclusive and equitable. It aims to bolster the region’s ongoing economic development initiatives; talent development, attraction, and retention strategies; and efforts to grow its innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem with these new challenges in mind.
The Council’s previous regional strategy was released in July 2018.
Northwest Arkansas Regional Recycling Report
First released in 2022, the Northwest Arkansas Regional Recycling Report an annual accounting of recycling collections from the Benton County and Boston Mountain solid waste districts and from a dozen cities with public recycling programs.
NWA Recycles is a joint effort by the Northwest Arkansas Council and the Benton County and Boston Mountain solid waste districts that launched in 2021 with support from Walmart. Its aim is to coordinate and improve local recycling services, which has become a major priority for the growing Northwest Arkansas region. A 2022 public infrastructure survey found more than 80 percent of respondents think more recycling is important to the area’s future and are willing to recycle more in their daily lives.
Music Ecosystem Strategy and Action Plan
The Northwest Arkansas Council commissioned a study in partnership with the global cultural planning firm Sound Diplomacy to understand the economic impact of Northwest Arkansas’ music industry and how it can help drive the region’s economy and improve livability. Research showed Northwest Arkansas’ music industry is responsible for generating a total annual economic output of $389 million and generating 3,972 jobs.
The Northwest Arkansas Music Ecosystem Strategy and Action Plan, released in March 2020, outlines recommendations to grow and support the music ecosystem in the region. The new regional arts service organization will lead the implementation of Sound Diplomacy’s music report recommendations alongside a task force of regional music stakeholders.
In July 2022, the Northwest Arkansas Council and EngageNWA released Engage the Future: A Look at the Growing Diversity in Northwest Arkansas. The report documents the region’s diverse population growth over the last decade, provides comparative analysis with several peer regions and highlights the racial and ethnic diversity in the region’s school districts.
Between 1990 and 2010, the region’s racially and ethnically diverse populations increased from less than 5% in 1990 to nearly 24% in 2010. Since then, diversity has continued to increase. In 2021, the region was over 29% diverse and is expected to grow to over 32% by 2026. The region’s Hispanic/Latino population saw the largest gains, accounting for over 17% of the population in 2021 and forecasted to grow to 19% by 2026.
The Northwest Arkansas Council, through its EngageNWA program, works with partners to foster belonging for everyone who calls the region home. This work will promote success for all residents and act as a magnet for recruitment and retention of talent, both at home and across the globe.
Previous versions of this report were released in 2018 and 2020
Northwest Arkansas Edge
The Economic Development: Generating Entrepreneurs (EDGE) Program, funded by the Walton Family Foundation, was initiated in Northwest Arkansas in Spring 2018. The program, managed by the IC2 Institute at The University of Texas at Austin, recommends Northwest Arkansas initiate a coordinated and intentional strategy to Innovate Again, Innovate Here. If successful, the truly unexpected nature of the region will be amplified, and the region will be positioned for long-term economic and social prosperity.
Northwest Arkansas Healthcare: Assessment, Economic Impact and Vision for the Future was released in January 2019, focusing on Northwest Arkansas’ healthcare sector, a $2.7 billion portion of the region’s economy.
Researchers determined that collaboration to advance the healthcare sector could transition Northwest Arkansas into a “healthcare destination,” add thousands of jobs over 20 years and increase the number of cardiologists, neurologists and endocrinologists who live and work in the region.
Compared to peer regions used by the Northwest Arkansas Council to measure the region’s success against top regions across the U.S., the Northwest Arkansas portion of the economy is small. About 7 percent of jobs in Northwest Arkansas are healthcare-related while the percentage is higher in peer regions that have taken intentional steps to grow their healthcare economies.
State of the Northwest Arkansas Region
The State of the Northwest Arkansas Region Report, first published in 2011 and commissioned by the Council, compares Northwest Arkansas with peer regions across the U.S. Those peers include outstanding places such as Austin, Texas; Des Moines, Iowa; Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Madison, Wisconsin; Provo-Orem, Utah; and Raleigh-Cary, North Carolina.
The Council chose those peers because it wanted to compare Northwest Arkansas to the best of the best in such areas as employment growth, educational attainment, personal income and the cost of homeownership. The Council’s strong relationship with the University of Arkansas has allowed it to partner with the university to evaluate and track the region’s performance in key areas.
Previous versions of the State of the Northwest Arkansas region are available here.
Creating Circular Economics
in Northwest Arkansas
As part of its Greater Northwest Arkansas Development Strategy, the Northwest Arkansas Council is working to ensure regional collaboration as a way to more effectively pursue big-ticket, infrastructure goals, including recycling. The Council commissioned the study to provide a better understanding of the pathways available and to identify actions and opportunities for sustainable development based on the circular movement of recycled and recovered materials in the Northwest Arkansas region.
“Creating Circular Economies in Northwest Arkansas” was completed by The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) and funded by the Walmart Foundation.
The study area included Benton, Madison and Washington counties, which are served by the Benton County and Boston Mountain solid waste districts. It focused on the city- and solid waste district-owned material streams created for residential sources. The year-long study was complicated work given the complexities of two dozen local governments in rural and urban areas as well as two solid waste districts, DEQ and private companies all interested in strengthening recycling opportunities.
Northwest Arkansas Workplace
Diversity and Inclusion Study
The Northwest Arkansas Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Study was commissioned by the Northwest Arkansas Council and conducted by the University of Arkansas’ Center for Business and Economic Research in 2019.
The survey collected information about organizational demographics, workforce, leadership and supervisor composition, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and programs and employer accommodations.
The results were filtered down to 149 for-profit organizations. Of those, 77% employed less than 50 employees.
Northwest Arkansas Report Card
The Council also works with the Office for Education Policy at the University of Arkansas to publish an annual Northwest Arkansas Education Report Card. The report provides information about the educational performance of local school districts. It compares Northwest Arkansas with key school districts across the U.S., demonstrating that people who do relocate to this region have great school options for their children.