Business Expansion Spurs NWA Job Growth

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Northwest Arkansas' job growth grew 4.3 percent in 2013 compared to the national average of 1.6 percent, according to Kathy Deck, Center for Business and Economic Research Director.

"Over the past 12 months, Northwest Arkansas has had spectacular job growth," Deck said. "We gained about 9,300 jobs, and what was really nice about it is that it was across sectors."

Arkansas Power Electronics International Inc., (APEI) is one of several companies expanding and adding jobs in the region.

"We're looking at hiring more processing engineers and more advance technicians for assembly," said Jared Hornberger, director of manufacturing.

The company has 46 employees. It manufactures power systems that go in cars and spacecraft to make them more energy efficient.

The company will get a part of a $140 million initiative to help increase jobs in the manufacturing sector in the country. President Barack Obama made the announcement Wednesday (Jan. 15).

APEI will receive $1 million in the next five years to help them grow, Hornberger said.

"It means a lot to us," Hornberger said. "It means there's a lot of people focused on getting this new technology into the marketplace. We've been working on it for 10 to 11 years now. We're happy to see this initiative."

Hornberger said APEI hopes to hire between 12 to 24 employees in the next five years.

"We hire a lot of University of Arkansas graduates in our engineering programs," Hornberger said. "We like to hire locally if we can and like to bring people back to Arkansas."

Deck said infrastructure, education and regional initiatives are making it more attractive to do business in the area.

She said one local initiative is with the Northwest Arkansas Council. It has a 10-year strategy in place to entice job growth and create economic opportunities.

"That means that really has the stage set for future job growth here in 2014 because it's a self-fulfilling profecy when we have a cycle where one sector hires that means there's going to be demand in other sectors as well."

Deck said about 10,000 jobs are expected to be added in Northwest Arkansas this year.