Northwest Arkansas Officials Plan For Better Future Economy

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — An economic nonprofit in northwestern Arkansas is working to guide the region’s development in the next three years to improve economic activity and the quality of life.

The Northwest Arkansas Council has unveiled more than 50 recommendations that touch on education and career training, housing, entrepreneurship, transportation and the arts. The council, based in Springdale, includes executives from the region’s largest companies, schools and health care systems, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

“We want this region to be thought of as one of the top regions in America,” said Ted Abernathy, managing partner at the North Carolina-based Economic Leadership consulting firm, which helped develop the plan. He said the region’s progressing in multiple ways and is one of the fastest growing in the country, but it still has some weaknesses.

The 28-year-old council has led regional projects like the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport and road improvements. It also works as an overarching chamber of commerce to attract people and businesses to the area.

The group decided for its latest plan to consider both incremental improvements and major, transformative change, said council CEO Nelson Peacock.

The plan focuses on partnership, calling on the University of Arkansas to double research and development spending to about $300 million a year.

“That’s a big, bold, transformational goal,” Abernathy said.

University Chancellor Joe Steinmetz said he thinks the proposal can be done thanks to the university’s faculty and a student body he predicts will top 28,000 in the next school year.