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Northwest Arkansas rises on economic prosperity list

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Northwest Arkansas made yet another "best of" list.

The Milken Institute listed the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers metropolitan area as No. 25 in its index of best-performing cities. The annual report analyzes economic trends and dynamics shaping cities, according to its website.

2017 Best-Performing Cities Report

The Milken Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank doing economic research and policy initiatives. To read the report, go to bit.ly/milkennwa2017.

Source: Staff report

The area is five spots higher than in 2016, rising steadily since 2002, according to the report. Its job and wage growth stands out among the Top 25, the report states.

Recent job gains can be attributed to health care and food manufacturing. Mercy Northwest Arkansas, Northwest Medical Center, Pinnacle Healthcare and Washington Regional Medical Center altogether employ more than 6,700 workers in the region, according to the report.

Arkansas Children's Northwest, opening this week, will add 250 more jobs.

The report also includes Cargill, George's, Pinnacle, Twin Rivers and Tyson as food-related enterprises contributing to the region's betterment.

Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse said the ranking reflects the investment industry has made in the area.

"Many Springdale employers were listed as a driving factor for our MSA's ranking on this list," he said. "We are proud that Springdale is the home to businesses and medical facilities that create jobs and support our community."

Wal-Mart continues to be the region's main employer, with more than 25,000 local workers. Population growth, combined with a robust industrial mix, should mean the Metropolitan Statistical Area maintains steady economic growth in the near future, according to the report. The Census Bureau includes Madison County and McDonald County, Mo., in the MSA.

"Northwest Arkansas is becoming harder and harder to overlook," said Ben Cline, Rogers spokesman. "We continue to be blessed as a region with a growing economy and we're humbled to be included. As Rogers grows with the region, we think it's important to see past city boundaries and make decisions that look toward the future."

The report listed a lack of high-tech sectors as a possible hindrance to long-term growth. Fayetteville has focused on curating new jobs through entrepreneurial development, said Devin Howland, the city's economic vitality director.

The city last year had 300 new businesses creating more than 1,000 new jobs, Howland said. Investments in quality of life and culture, such as TheatreSquared, the Walton Arts Center, Kessler Mountain and the trails system attract businesses and residents, he said.

"These types of investments have had a big economic impact in Fayetteville, and the city is continuing to experience healthy growth," Howland said. "Fayetteville is a great place to live and do business, and it's rankings like these that confirm we are on the right path."

NW News on 01/12/2018

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