Influx of Workers Transforms Northwest Arkansas

by Todd Traub  on Monday, Jul. 2, 2012 12:00 am  

Ironically, the presence of bargain-priced Wal-Mart in northwest Arkansas supercharged population growth and the development of decidedly upscale shopping destinations like Pinnacle Hills Promenade in Rogers.

Crystal Bridges clearly would not exist without Wal-Mart and the wealth it generated for the Walton family. The art museum is the project of Alice Walton, daughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, and stands as another example of the broadened horizons in northwest Arkansas.

Now, Clifford said, the area is drawing members of the art community in greater numbers and with them comes a still greater variety of tastes and influences with potential to affect the local scene.

But Clifford and Haynes point out that northwest Arkansas has not become so high society that it has lost its identity. Yes, there are now Mercedes and BMW dealerships, Haynes said, and executives have big houses, but there are few outright gaudy displays of wealth or success.

“I’ve been here long enough to know that you cannot even pretend to know by looking at a person — or by what they drive or how they dress — what their level of liquidity is. There are some people here who have unimaginable wealth but who are normal Joes.”

The work ethic that helped create Wal-Mart still exists in northwest Arkansas, Clifford said.

“Who we are has evolved since 1962 when Sam put the first Wal-Mart up,” Clifford said. “But I don’t know that the character of northwest Arkansas has changed a whole lot. It was all about entrepreneurship then, and it’s still about entrepreneurship. We’re seeing more and more small companies formed.

“Granted, they have a customer base here for their services you maybe wouldn’t have in other areas, but still it’s about entrepreneurship, schools. It’s about the safety of the area.”



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