NW Arkansas on list of U.S. dynamic sites

Northwest Arkansas is one of the most vibrant metropolitan areas in the nation, according to a nationwide study that said the area is poised for continued business development.

The Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers corridor is an attractive region for business expansion, job creation and income generation, all of which will contribute to an expanding tax base, according to a study released last week by Heartland Forward.

“The transformation of [the region] over the past three decades is astonishing,” the report notes. “It is on a path similar to what Austin and Nashville established 20 years ago, widely hailed as the top Heartland economic success stories of recent years.”

Heartland, a Bentonville-based think tank, analyzed a range of metrics to rank 375 metropolitan areas across the country in the “Most Dynamic Metropolitans 2020” report. The top 30 metropolitan areas were highlighted in the study, which gave the top honor to Midland, Texas.

Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers ranked 21st among all metropolitan areas and was rated third-best among medium-sized metropolitan areas.

“Northwest Arkansas has a unique set of assets that are critical to grow a regional economy today,” said Ross DeVol, president and chief executive officer of the organization.

The region has a leading research university — the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville — that is becoming more engaged in working with the private sector and large corporate headquarters that provide an important base for growth, according to DeVol.

The study touted the region’s expertise in logistics and distribution as a strong point.

“There is a real opportunity to create a very vibrant, clustered ecosystem that will be even stronger in the future,” DeVol added. “Northwest Arkansas has the potential to become the next Austin. By making the right investments, Northwest Arkansas has the potential to be an economic development leader for many years to come.”

Austin has become a magnet for high-tech companies with growing ambitions.

A week ago, Oracle Corp. announced that it would move its corporate headquarters to Texas’ capital city. Apple is building a $1 billion campus in the city, and Tesla has a major manufacturing plant in Austin. Tesla founder Elon Musk also said recently that he was moving from California and would make his home in Austin.

BSR Real Estate Investment Trust, a Little Rock firm that owns and manages apartment complexes, has set its sights on Northwest Arkansas as one of its key growth markets going forward.

BSR owns two apartment properties in the region, one in Fayetteville and another in Springdale, with plans to add more area complexes to its real estate portfolio.

“Northwest Arkansas is one of the fastest-growing real estate markets in the country,” said Dan Oberste, BSR’s president and chief investment officer. “We continue to see rapid value appreciation with our investments there and, to my knowledge, so have our peers.”

Heartland Forward said its rankings are an “objective measure of the economic vibrancy of metropolitan areas across the nation,” provide a glimpse of recent economic performance and highlight long-term growth opportunities and challenges.

The organization’s researchers examined data that included job growth, average annual earnings and gross domestic product gains in compiling its rankings.

By highlighting the region’s economic-development attributes, the study provides a useful aid to complement recruitment of new and expanding industries interested in locating in Arkansas, according to Commerce Secretary Mike Preston.

“This is independent verification of what we talk about when recruiting companies,” Preston said. “We can point to this and show that we’re not just blowing smoke and that there are independent studies that show the value of the region. It’s a huge benefit for us and our team.”

Companies interested in the region do their own research and are armed with quality information when they are making a decision to…

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