Survey: Northwest Arkansas Expects 2,000 New Jobs, $195M in Expansion

Northwest Arkansas companies plan to create more than 2,000 jobs and invest more than $195 million in expansion during the next three years, according to a regional employer survey.

Twenty-one percent of the companies interviewed said they expect to expand in the coming year, the report said.

The 27-page employer retention and expansion survey was conducted by the Northwest Arkansas Council and area chambers of commerce, which released their findings Monday. The council and chambers conducted interviews with 529 employers from companies of varying size and sales reach. 

Five area chambers of commerce — in Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers-Lowell, Bentonville/Bella Vista and Siloam Springs — participated in the survey.

Mike Harvey, COO of the council, said the goal was to contact 450 businesses; 459 were surveyed in the initial report in 2012. The latest report included information gleaned from 162 major companies, 67 percent of which have at least 751 employees, and 367 smaller companies, 88 percent of which have 100 or fewer employees.

Major companies include sizable employers, for example, a hospital or a company headquarters. An example of a smaller company would be a health clinic.

Harvey said many more small businesses were interviewed for this year's report, and 57 percent of those businesses reported growth in sales in 2013. That is above the state and national average, Harvey said.

"Things are much better in northwest Arkansas, which is what these people are selling to," Harvey said.

Harvey said the survey's results are used to help the chambers support and assist the businesses in their communities. He said the chief concerns expressed by employers deal with federal health care and regulatory legislation and therefore are out of the purview of the council and chambers.

Problems with transportation and infrastructure are local issues affecting northwest Arkansas companies, Harvey said.

"We've been basically trying to keep up with growth in this area," Harvey said.

Mike Malone said infrastructure won't be a quick fix because as construction catches up with current needs, the area's growth requires even more infrastructure. Insufficient infrastructure, weakness in public transit and high airfares at Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport all affect businesses big and small in northwest Arkansas.

Northwest Arkansas added 9,580 jobs in 2013, an increase of 4.56 percent, the fourth-best in the country by percentage.

"Northwest Arkansas had a great 2013," Malone said. "We've got to remember that. This is a positive trend analysis."

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