The so-called Northwest Arkansas region is one of the fastest growing in the country, and the three named cities, Rogers, Springdale, and Fayetteville, plus the elephant- in-the-room Bentonville represent an interesting mix of small cities that all work together and all offer something. The three names cities are located in a north-south line roughly 10 miles apart, while Bentonville lies five miles west of Rogers.
Each of these towns brings something different to the area, and the mix works well. Fayetteville is home to the University of Arkansas and has an attractive campus, historic buildings, a progressive feel and the usual college-town amenities. Springfield is more “old South” as a center of light manufacturing, trucking and agricultural processing, anchored by the headquarters and major operations of poultry processor Tyson. Rogers was once a sleepy non-descript Southern town but has boomed as a hot family-oriented residential area, One of the reasons why is Bentonville, and for those whom the name isn’t familiar, it is the headquarters for retail giant Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart earns superlatives all over the country, but no single employer wields the economic influence that Wal-Mart has in Bentonville and the surrounding area. The headquarters employs some 13,000, and that is not the whole story, as scores of other companies supplying everything from product to marketing to legal services make the area their home. And there’s a steady stream of business travelers calling on the nation’s #1 retailer as well.
All of this leads to a booming economy and plenty of air service. The founding Walton family and the Jones family of trucking industry lineage have left a strong cultural imprint on the area as well. The Walton family has endowed a large performing arts center and a $50-million Walton family-supported art museum is scheduled to open in 2009. The Jones family has endowed the Jones Center for Families among other assets.
There are plenty of water and outdoor recreation opportunities in nearby lakes and mountain areas, but some might feel a bit isolated from other “city” activities (the closest big city is Kansas City 175 miles north). Living costs are low and substantial employment and income growth bring strong buying power. Crime rates are notably low for the region.
The area contains a mix of farmland, nearby lakes, and rolling, wooded hills. Climate is continental and typical of the region, with a strong Gulf influence particularly in summer. However, the elevation and nearby mountains keep temperatures a few degrees cooler than many other parts of the state. Winters are generally mild, with occasional cold spells.