The economic impact of moving 1,000 Tyson Foods Inc. executives to Springdale could be as high as $250 million, including millions of dollars in new tax revenues locally and statewide, according to the Northwest Arkansas Council.
The council, a nonprofit organization composed of area business, community and academic leaders, studied the effect of the relocation initiative, branded OneTyson, to bring decision-makers now in Illinois and South Dakota to company headquarters in Springdale, beginning early next year. Council CEO Nelson Peacock said the study was based on 800 of the 1,000 employees moving to northwest Arkansas, but even that number would result in additional jobs being created in industries such as health care, education and construction.
“These are high-level corporate jobs,” Peacock said. “It helps us create an environment where there are more of those types of people here. We’re trying to create a cluster as we continue to expand economically. We’re trying to make sure we grow for the next generation. It’s a big deal and we are excited about it.”
That excitement is blunting any concerns about how the affluent newcomers could affect northwest Arkansas’ already strained housing market.
Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse said the OneTyson initiative, announced Oct. 5, shouldn’t have too much of a negative impact on the region’s housing market.
The ongoing growth and prosperity of northwest Arkansas have resulted in a red-hot housing industry that has seen prices rise 128% in the last decade, according to the Arvest Bank Skyline Report, with research conducted by the Center for Business & Economic Research at the University of Arkansas’ Walton College of Business.
“We are a fast-growing city anyway and any additional concerns with the issues are issues we are already dealing with anyway,” Sprouse said. “While we are very excited about the 1,000 new jobs coming to Springdale, I don’t know if it changes our trajectory that much as far as the issues as a growing community we are already dealing with.
“Housing is a challenge, but it’s a challenge anyway. This is a challenge that we as a region are having to address. This might put a little exclamation point on it, but it’s certainly not bringing us any challenges we are not already facing.”
Peacock said the OneTyson move-ins would represent about one-tenth of the annual population growth in northwest Arkansas so it wouldn’t cause undue strain. He expects the housing market to stabilize as prices moderate because of higher interest rates and as developers continue to increase the number of homes available.
“Housing is no secret,” Peacock said. “I don’t think this fundamentally changes that. We are having a bit of easing. Hopefully the supply chain will ease up, and we will get more production going forward.
“It will have an impact, but I don’t think it fundamentally changes the market in a significant way. Over the long term, we are going to be the same thing we had planned on doing.”
Affordable housing availability shouldn’t be affected because most of the incoming executives will probably be looking for a higher price point than the affordable-price point the council has made a priority in addressing.
“Our housing stock is like everybody else’s: our vacancies were very low long before this announcement,” Sprouse said. “The best thing we can do as a region is recognize it is an issue and look for ways to incentivize developers. If anybody can do it, northwest Arkansas can.”
‘Jumping for Joy’
Peacock said he was a little surprised that the OneTyson announcement hasn’t made a bigger splash in the region than it has.
The area’s economic strength is based, in large part, on the presence and success of such business giants as Tyson Foods, Walmart Inc. of Bentonville and J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. of Lowell, as well as the flagship University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Sometimes big news from one of them can be almost taken for granted, but Peacock said bringing in 1,000 employees would be like a midsize company relocating its business to northwest Arkansas.
Tyson Foods did not respond to a request for comment from Arkansas Business.
“It hasn’t gotten the attention that it should from an economic development perspective,” Peacock said.
Sprouse said it has been a shot in the arm for Springdale, the fourth-largest city in the state but often overshadowed by its sister cities in northwest Arkansas.
“It’s nice when others notice what you already know,” Sprouse said. “We do have a great, thriving, growing community. Any time we can get a little spotlight on it, well, that’s encouraging to the people who live here and help make that happen.”
CBER Director Mervin Jebaraj said the headquarters consolidation could have the same effect on Springdale that Tyson Foods’ facility on Emma Avenue had on the downtown area after it opened in 2017.
“It’s a good thing for the region,” Jebaraj said. “Any other region that was told 1,000 people and jobs were moving to the area would be jumping for joy. We are not celebrating this event as much as we should. When was the last time we had a groundbreaking for that many jobs?
“There are a lot of places both within our state and around the country that would be very happy to have someone say we’re bringing in 1,000 people.”