Sep 30, 2021 - Business

New ad campaign aims to lure STEM workers to Northwest Arkansas

A billboard that reads Everything's bigger in Texas, including the mortgage payments.

A billboard in Austin, Texas. Photo courtesy of the Northwest Arkansas Council

The Northwest Arkansas Council wants workers in cities to downsize their locations in order to upsize their lives.

What's happening: The nonprofit this week launched an advertising campaign to encourage people — especially in STEM occupations, creatives and entrepreneurs — to move to NWA.

  • And the accompanying billboards aren't afraid to get cheeky.

Why it matters: There's no nationally competitive entrepreneurial ecosystem and little intellectual property native to NWA, according to a 2019 report commissioned by the council.

  • The ad campaign is designed to raise awareness about the area as a real and practical alternative to living in big cities.
  • People in larger cities don't know about the amenities we're all used to — world-class art, mountain biking, Fortune 500 companies and easy networking.

What they're saying: There are 10,000 job openings in NWA and not enough people with the right skills to fill them, Nelson Peacock, president and CEO of the council, told Axios.

  • "Unemployment is low, and the need is high," he said.
A billboard that reads Go South, young tech workers.
A billboard in Seattle. Photo courtesy of the Northwest Arkansas Council

The intrigue: The council declined to share how much it's spending on the campaign since it's still working to raise funds. But it noted support comes from the Alice L. Walton Foundation, J.B. Hunt, Simmons Foods, Tyson Foods, Walmart and the Walton Family Foundation.

Flashback: The council launched the "Life Works Here" incentive program in November 2020, offering applicants $10,000 and a bike (or museum passes) to relocate to NWA.

  • 48 people have been awarded the incentive, and 33 recipients have moved here, including Kim Bryden, a hospitality business coach, Nate Nead, a serial entrepreneur, and Robin Bruce, an artist.
  • A total of 100 will be awarded by the end of the year. Recipients have six months after they're awarded to relocate.

Details: The new campaign is a continuation of the "Life Works Here" theme.

  • A 60-second TV spot and billboards are appearing in Austin, Denver, Minneapolis and Seattle.
  • Ads also will appear in targeted digital media like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times for readers in those markets.

The buzz: The campaign is already being covered as a news story in Austin.

A billboard that reads It's like Austin, but affordable.
Another billboard throwing shade at Austin. Photo courtesy of the Northwest Arkansas Council

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