Feb 6, 2024 - News

NWA named among the country's best performing metro areas

Illustration of a winner's medal shaped like a location pin.

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Northwest Arkansas jumped two spaces to land at No. 7 in the Milken Institute's latest annual list of Best-Performing Cities, released first to Axios.

  • Authors of the report said post-pandemic job growth has contributed to the area's top 10 status for the past three years.

Why it matters: The top metropolitan areas in the rankings offer high wages, plentiful jobs, a (relatively) low cost of living and thriving tech sectors — making them economic models for the rest of the nation.

Driving the news: The Milken Institute, a nonpartisan nonprofit, assessed 403 U.S. metropolitan areas using 12 economic metrics based on data from January 2022 to August 2023.

  • The report divided cities into large metros (more than 275,000 people) and smaller ones.

What they found: Listed above NWA were Austin, Texas; Raleigh, North Carolina; Boise, Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah; and Nashville, Tennessee.

Zoom in: The NWA population is on pace to reach 1 million by 2045, the report states.

  • Leisure and hospitality industries contributed to the area's employment spike after the pandemic, but "financial activities, professional services and transportation" have accounted for almost one-third of job gains in the past five years.
  • The area still lags comparable cities in high-tech industry diversification, "concentrating most of the metro area's high-tech GDP production in only four of the possible 24 technology industries," the report states.

Of note: This year's rankings took two new factors into consideration: income inequality and "resilience," the latter defined as a city's ability to withstand severe weather and economic turmoil.

What's next: Expect climate change, the migration of high-tech jobs and the evolution of remote work patterns to continue shaping the futures of cities across America.


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