Northwest Arkansas Council

The Northwest Arkansas Council is a private, nonprofit organization that works toward the development of the northwestern corner of the state. Its goal is to meet the needs of the community by advancing job opportunities, fostering affordable housing, and enhancing the area’s infrastructure, healthcare, and quality of life. Its influence encompasses Bentonville (Benton County), Fayetteville (Washington County), Rogers (Benton County), Siloam Springs (Benton County), Springdale (Washington and Benton counties), and smaller surrounding towns in Benton and Washington counties as well as adjacent rural areas of Madison County.

The Northwest Arkansas Council was established in 1990 by business leaders including J. B. Hunt of J. B. Hunt Transport Services, Don Tyson of Tyson Foods, and Sam Walton of Walmart. The group has expanded to more than 100 members, including such varied entities as Cooper Communities, the Jones Trust, McKee Foods, the Nature Conservancy, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Procter & Gamble, Simmons Foods, Stephens, Inc., UAMS-Northwest, University of Arkansas (UA), and Washington Regional Medical System.

The seeds of what became the Northwest Arkansas Council were planted in the late 1980s when Walton and Fayetteville banker John Lewis discussed northwestern Arkansas towns and businesses working together. In doing so, the two business leaders believed there could be greater accomplishments regionally than what individual towns could do by themselves. Priorities at the time included creating the Northwest Arkansas National Airport (now Northwest Arkansas National Airport) and the construction of Interstate 49 from Interstate 40, running through northwestern Arkansas to the Missouri state line. Both projects ultimately materialized.

The first president of the Northwest Arkansas Council was Uvalde Lindsey, who served from 1990 to 2005. He was followed by Mike Malone, who served until 2016, when Nelson Peacock became the chief executive officer.

With a population of about 580,000 people in 2020, Northwest Arkansas was recorded as one of the nation’s 100 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas, or MSAs. These are 387 geographical regions with a relatively high population density as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau and which have close regional economic ties. In 2022, the Census Bureau placed Northwest Arkansas in ninety-eighth place for MSAs, higher than Reno, Nevada; Huntsville, Alabama; and Springfield, Massachusetts.

In its State of the Northwest Arkansas Region Report (SOTR), northwestern Arkansas compares itself to what the council considers to be peer regions across the United States. Those include Austin, Texas; Des Moines, Iowa; Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Madison, Wisconsin; Provo-Orem, Utah; and Raleigh-Cary, North Carolina.

The work of the Northwest Arkansas Council focuses on arts and culture; diversity, equity, and inclusion; economic development; entrepreneurship; healthcare; housing; infrastructure, and workforce development. Among its achievements, the group spotlights Arvest Ballpark, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, The Momentary contemporary art space, Razorback Regional Greenway, Scott Family Amazeum, TheatreSquared, Walmart AMP, and the Walton Arts Center.

In 2023, one of its main projects was the construction of a seventy-seven-unit mixed-income apartment development known as Big Emma due to its location on Emma Street in downtown Springdale. The aim was to offer affordable housing to the area’s mid-range earners such as firefighters, nurses, police, restaurant workers, and teachers amid the rising costs of housing and rent in the region.

The Northwest Arkansas Council publishes its annual report each summer to review the group’s work over the previous year and to describe upcoming priorities.

For additional information:
Nelson, Rex. “Power Players.” Arkansas Democrat Gazette, September 24, 2023, pp. 1H, 6H. Online at (accessed April 4, 2024).

Northwest Arkansas Council. (accessed April 4, 2024).

Souza, Kim. “Affordable Housing, Medical School, Art Part of NWA Council Annual Meeting.” Talk Business & Politics, July 18, 2023. (accessed April 4, 2024).

Sparkman, Worth. “Northwest Arkansas Council Jumpstarts Attainable Housing Project.” Axios NW Arkansas, July 19, 2023. (accessed April 4, 2024).

Nancy Hendricks
Garland County Historical Society


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