Northwest, Northeast Arkansas cities growing at fastest rate in state

by Jeff Della Rosa (JDellaRosa@nwabj.com) 2,280 views 

Among the largest Arkansas cities, the population increased the most in Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers, Jonesboro and Springdale over the past year. As of July 1, 2017, the estimated population of the cities rose 4.9% to 49,298, 2.3% to 85,257, 2.2% to 66,430, 1.6% to 75,866 and 1.5% to 79,599, respectively.

On Thursday (May 24), the Census Bureau released the July 1, 2017, population estimates for cities and housing unit estimates for counties and states. The Census Bureau determines fastest-growing cities and towns based on those with at least 50,000 people, and 10 of the 15 fastest-growing cities were in the South, with seven in Texas.

Frisco, Texas, was the fastest growing city between 2016 and 2017, with its population rising 8.2% to 177,286. If Bentonville had 702 more people, it would have been tied for 8th place on the list with Franklin, Tenn., which grew 4.9% to 78,321 people.

The South also had eight of the 15 cities and towns with the largest population increase, and three were in Texas. San Antonio, Texas, had the largest rise in population, adding 24,208, or an average of 66 people per day, between 2016 and 2017. The seventh largest city in the United States has grown to a population of 1.51 million.

Looking at the top 100 fastest growing cities between 2010 and 2017, Pam Willrodt, demographer for the Arkansas Economic Development Institute at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, said Rogers was No. 33 and Fayetteville No. 63, with 18.7% and 15.9% growth rates, respectively. Over the same period, the population of Fayetteville rose the most, increasing by 11,677 people, and Rogers grew the fastest, adding 10,466 people. Again, if Bentonville had 702 more people, it would’ve been listed as the fastest growing and had the largest increase because it grew 39.7%, or by 13,997 people, over the same period.

Since 2000, Bentonville, Fayetteville and Rogers have grown 150%, or by 29,568 people; 47%, or by 27,210; and 71%, or by 27,601, respectively. However, Springdale has had the largest population increase in the state since 2000 as it has risen by 33,801, a 74% growth rate.

Following are growth rates of other cities with a population of at least 50,000, between 2016 and 2017:
• Conway grew 1.4%, or by 928 people, to 65,782;
• Fort Smith, the second largest city in the state, grew 0.4%, or by 362 people, to 88,037;
• Little Rock increased 0.2%, or by 299 people, to 198,606; and
• North Little Rock fell 0.2%, or by 155 people, to 65,911.

GROWTH REGIONS AND REASONS
Michael Pakko, chief economist and state economic forecaster for the Arkansas Economic Development Institute at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, said strong job growth from large corporations has contributed to population increases. The number of service sector jobs are rising, and the growth is concentrated in metropolitan areas. In central Arkansas, a lot of the growth is in counties surrounding Pulaski County.

The population growth can be attributed to about one-third of the state as the population declines or is flat in the north central and southern parts of the state. The latter areas aren’t experiencing similar job growth compared to those that are growing, Pakko said. Northwest Arkansas looks to continue to grow, but infrastructure could impact its growth. It was the only part of the state that faced a real estate downturn as a result of the recession after it had overinvested into real estate, but the region has recovered from the recession and has been growing and making use of the available real estate, Pakko explained.

About two-thirds of the growth in Northwest Arkansas is from people who move to the area, said Mike Harvey, chief operating officer for the Northwest Arkansas Council. Something he’s watching is the number of Baby Boomers who move to where their Millennial children live to be closer to their grandchildren. By 2025, Millennials will comprise of 75% of the workforce, but as the generation has waited longer to have children, it’s impacted the jobs to population growth ratio: for every job created, two people are added to the population. But this could change as the generation starts having children and their grandparents move to where they live.

Something else that could impact the population growth in Northwest Arkansas is job growth in the region has started to slow since the first quarter of 2017, compared to between 2013 and 2016, when 8,000 to 10,000 jobs were created annually. Since early 2017, job growth has returned to historical levels of between 4,000 and 5,000 new jobs annually, Harvey said.

HOUSING UNIT GROWTH
The Census Bureau also released the number of housing units for counties and states, and Utah was the fast-growing state in regard to housing units, with a 2.1% increase. In Arkansas, housing units rose 0.7%, or by 9,214, to 1.37 million homes. Compared to the 50 states and Puerto Rico, Arkansas fell to No. 33 in 2017, from No. 31 in 2016, in terms of housing unit growth.

Among the 3,142 U.S. counties with the fastest growth in homes, Benton County was ranked No. 39, with a 2.7% growth rate and added 2,793 homes, while Craighead County was ranked No. 79, with a 2.2% growth rate and added 981 homes. Between 2010 and 2017, the number of homes in Benton County rose 13.1%, or by 12,185 homes, to 105,269 housing units, and in Craighead County, it increased 12.3%, or by 4,978, to 45,493 housing units.

Over the same period, housing units in Faulkner and Washington counties increased 7.5%, or by 3,498, to 50,110; and 6.8%, or by 5,934, to 93,742, respectively. The number of housing units in Pulaski County rose 4.9%, or by 8,667, to 184,222; and in Sebastian County, the number increased 4%, or by 2,201, to 56,862. Following are other counties in the state with a growth rate of more than 5%: Saline, with a 9.1% growth rate, added 4,064 housing units; Lonoke, with a 7.8% growth rate, added 2,136 housing units; and Greene, with a 6.1% growth rate, added 1,086 housing units.

On March 22, the Census Bureau released the 2017 population estimates for metropolitan statistical areas and counties. In June, the federal agency will release 2017 population estimates by age, sex, race and Hispanic origin for the United States, states and counties.

THE NUMBERS
2017 Population, Growth
Bentonville: 49,298
Added 2,281 (4.9%)

Conway: 65,782
Added 928 (1.4%)

Fayetteville: 85,257
Added 1,930 (2.3%)

Fort Smith: 88,037
Added 362 (0.4%)

Jonesboro: 75,866
Added 1,183 (1.6%)

Little Rock: 198,606
Added 299 (0.2%)

North Little Rock: 65,911
Fell 155 (-0.2%)

Rogers: 66,430
Added 1,419 (2.2%)

Springdale: 79,599
Added 1,180 (1.5%)

2017 Housing Units, Growth by County
Benton: 105,269
Added 2,793 (2.7%)

Craighead: 45,493
Added 981 (2.2%)

Faulkner: 50,110
Added 354 (0.7%)

Pulaski: 184,222
Added 1,032 (0.6%)

Sebastian: 56,862
Added 515 (0.9%)

Washington: 93,742
Added 1,428 (1.5%)

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