Region Must Harness Talent of Everyone, Northwest Arkansas Leader Says

Ethnic and racial diversity in Northwest Arkansas will continue its steady increase over the next five years, demonstrating that the region must embrace the long-term transition to continue its stellar economic performance.

The region’s changing population is just one of the notable facts that can be gleaned from “Diversity: A Look at How Northwest Arkansas’ Population is Changing.” The new report was made public this week by the Northwest Arkansas Council and its WelcomeNWA and EngageNWA initiatives.

The Diversity Report was shared Tuesday with members of the Northwest Arkansas Council at the organization’s winter meeting held at The Jones Center in Springdale. The region’s increasing diversity was the central theme of the meeting.

“We put this summary together to show the breadth of minority populations in the region and present information about how our region will change over the next five years,” said Nelson Peacock, president and CEO of the Council. “Northwest Arkansas is changing by the day. We must take proactive steps to harness the talents and energy of everyone who chooses to make this region home to ensure that it remains one of the nation’s best places to live and work.”

Northwest Arkansas’ overall population change between 1990 and 2017 is nothing short of remarkable, but the region’s growth of racially and ethnically diverse people is even more notable.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that just 10,000 Hispanic/Latinos, Asians, African-Americans, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders lived in Northwest Arkansas in 1990. Now, those ethnic and racial groups include more than 140,000 people and they’ll account for 180,000 people by 2022.

Other interesting Northwest Arkansas statistics in the Diversity Report include:

  • Students in Northwest Arkansas school systems come from more than 70 countries and speak at least 63 languages.
  • Springdale is on pace to be the region’s first large city where the majority of the population is non-white. More than 37,000 people of color live in the city today, and an additional 6,000 will live in the city within five years, projections suggest.
  • Bentonville has the region’s largest population of people from India and 451 students in the Bentonville School District speak Telugu, Tamil or Hindi. Those are primary languages in India.
  • Northwest Arkansas has one of the world’s largest populations of people from the Marshall Islands, and the vast majority live in Springdale. Statistics provided by the Springdale School District indicate about 1,100 Marshallese students were born in the Marshall Islands, but far more (nearly 1,700) were actually born in the United States.
  • Fourteen out of 20 Northwest Arkansas residents will be white in 2022. It was 19 out of every 20 in 1990.

That changing regional population has the Northwest Arkansas Council and members and a cross section of the community working to make living in the region easier for all people.

EngageNWA, one of the two Council initiatives, was created to help newcomers and all constituents of the regional community work together to broaden integration and engagement efforts. One of its purposes is to strengthen the local economy and position Northwest Arkansas as a community of engaged global talent.

WelcomeNWA, which was established last year by the Council, works with Northwest Arkansas cities and counties to implement policies and strategies that attract, welcome and integrate all who chose to call Northwest Arkansas home. The initiative spans a variety of areas, including education, economic opportunity and civic engagement.