If you’re planning to make a move soon – or even if you’re not – Northwest Arkansas should be at the top of your list.
That’s the message from the Northwest Arkansas Council, which is launching a new “Life Works Here” initiative to attract entrepreneurs and top STEM industry talent to the region.
For Nelson Peacock, president and CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Council, the initiative is a forward-looking endeavor designed to position Northwest Arkansas for the years to come. While the region has boomed in recent decades, Peacock said that recent reports have indicated that Northwest Arkansas is lacking critical elements that will enable it to continue its growth.
“Northwest Arkansas has been doing extremely well economically over the last 20 years or so. But in all that, the economy has transitioned, and we’re looking to the future. One of the things that we have a deficit in, frankly, is STEM and STEAM talent. We also have a deficit in entrepreneurship – the creation of jobs and knowledge-based firms,” he said. “When look at the future, that’s what we’re going to need to continue to be successful.”
In October 2019, the NWA Council commissioned a study, which Peacock said showed a shortage of young entrepreneurial firms in Northwest Arkansas. This realization, combined with thousands of STEM jobs sitting empty in the region, led to the creation of the Life Works Here initiative.
To create the program, the NWA Council looked at similar programs, such as Tulsa Remote, which also offers a $10,000 grant for workers to relocate. However, the difference for Peacock is the focus – targeting the entrepreneurs and STEM workers.
As part of the program, participants will receive $10,000 in cash – paid out in installments – as well as two different incentive options. Participants can either buy a bike that bike to take advantage of local trails or to buy memberships to local cultural institutions.
There are certain requirements to the program. Individuals accepted into the program must move to Northwest Arkansas within six months and must remain for at least a year in order to get the full benefit of the incentives. There will also be a “service requirement.”
“We’re going to require participants in the program to help develop our ecosystem,” Peacock said. “We want people to be part of the community and help grow our economic ecosystem.”
Already, the program is beginning to gain traction. National media has covered the program, and the NWA Council has already identified applicants and candidates through digital tracking efforts.
Peacock expects the initiative to continue for two to four months, and the organization will evaluate its progress at that point.
Ultimately, Peacock hopes that the program draws more attention to Northwest Arkansas and helps build a robust pipeline of crucial entrepreneurial and STEM workers.
“Northwest Arkansas is not necessarily on the top 10 list,” he said. “We’re hopeful that this incentive will help [people] take a look at what we have to offer. We do have a lot – very strong economy, low cost of living, high quality of life.”