Northwest Arkansas companies plan to create more than 3,100 jobs and invest more than $336 million in expansion during the next three years, according to a regional employer survey.
A quarter of the companies interviewed by the Northwest Arkansas Council for the report said they expect to expand in the coming year. The 30-page "Regional Employer Survey" report was compiled by the Northwest Arkansas Council in collaboration with chambers of commerce from Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers-Lowell, Bentonville/Bella Vista and Siloam Springs.
More: Read the full report.
The annual employer retention and expansion survey was released Thursday by the council. Specialists interviewed 508 employers confidentially.
The council reported that regional companies are optimistic about the local economy if still uncertain about the U.S. economy. For the report, 188 employers who manufacture or distribute goods or are headquartered in northwest Arkansas were interviewed, and three-quarters of them reported an increase in sales in 2015.
More than half of those employers reported that finding skilled labor was the biggest obstacle they faced. In 2012, 10 percent of companies said lack of skilled labor was the biggest challenge.
"We can see the companies are positive about northwest Arkansas and believe they’ll be able to create more jobs here, but many of the employers also acknowledge that they face some big challenges to reaching their hiring goals," said COO Mike Harvey of the Northwest Arkansas Council. "One of those challenges is our workforce. Just like it is in so many regions, northwest Arkansas companies need more people with higher skills…"