By Dave Woods | DiscoverNorthwestArkansas.com
Mervin Jebaraj believes the secret to the economic success of Northwest Arkansas is simple.
“When you think about the sectors that are important in Northwest Arkansas it’s retail, food production and supply chain logistics,” Mervin, director of Center for Business and Economic Research for Walton College at University of Arkansas, said. “There is quite an interplay between them, given that food production is selling the goods to wholesale and retail locations, and the retail locations need supply chain logistics to move goods around to all of the stores.”
Mervin believes it’s the perfect economic storm to drive and sustain growth in Northwest Arkansas.
“It’s a trifecta of industries that really are interdependent,” he said. “If you are an executive in one of these industries, this is the place for you. We don’t find a greater concentration of those activities anywhere else in the country.”
Mervin attributes much of the economic success around the region to a handful of recognizable names.
“We have the three very large employers in Walmart, Tyson and J.B. Hunt,” he said. “UofA is a very large employer as well. Between the four of them there has been a steady base of employment for the region. Along with their growth came all of their vendors and suppliers. That added employees and we saw very fast population growth in Benton and Washington counties. They went from being small counties to the second and third largest in the state.”
While the larger industries and more recognizable names provide the regional employment base, other growth is important to a thriving future, too.
“The future growth will be in new industries and in a lot of the services associated with providing the amenities people want,” he said. “That’s where we are seeing growth now. It’s hard to predict what will come in the future. There are a few companies that will continue to spur growth, we’re not sure who they will be yet.”