Bentonville has been dubbed the new “beauty capital” as northwest Arkansas becomes one of the fastest growing regions in the United States and a hotspot for high culture.
- Northwest Arkansas was recently ranked the 15th fastest growing area in the United States
- A Wall Street Journal travel writer declared it a “splendid new capital”
- Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville has fueled the region’s growth
Northwest Arkansas is one of the fastest-growing regions in the country, attracting an influx of young professionals who are turning it into a new hotspot.
Long known mainly for Razorbacks football and the rugged beauty of the Ozark Mountains, the area has become an emerging cultural center, with a Wall Street Journal travel writer recently declaring it “a great new capital.”
The region, which includes the cities of Bentonville, Rogers, Springdale and Fayetteville, is the 15th-fastest-growing place in the United States, and its population is expected to double to nearly 1 million residents by 2045, according to U.S. News and World Report.
This explosive growth was fueled in large part by Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, where founder Sam Walton opened his first “Walton’s Five and Dime” store in 1950.
The Walton family, which still owns nearly 50 percent of the retail giant, has funneled some of that wealth into the area, including funding the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art that opened in 2011.
The presence of Walmart, the largest retailer in the United States with revenues of more than $611 billion last year, has attracted many young, ambitious employees to the area.
It also attracted a cluster of branch offices from vendors keen to maintain a presence close to the mother ship, spurring a building boom.
Northwest Arkansas is also a proving ground for Walmart’s investments in future delivery and transportation technologies for tomorrow’s retail world.
“It’s a Jetson-like test market for drones and driverless trucks.” It is a key location for the development of advanced mobility and comprehensive health industries. Entrepreneurship is thriving here, wrote Axios journalist Worth Sparkman, who covers the region.
But Worthman noted that the explosive growth also had drawbacks, including rising housing prices, increased traffic congestion, and concerns about protecting water supplies from pollution.
According to census data for the metropolitan area that includes Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Bentonville, the area’s population today is 576,000, an increase of more than 25 percent from 2010.
The National Association of Realtors ranked the area No. 4 on its list of Top 10 Residential Markets to Watch for 2023.
The median list price of homes in the area was $433,500 last month — up nearly 50 percent from August 2019 — according to Realtor.com.
The district, which includes the main campus of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, is younger and more educated than Arkansas as a whole, according to census data.
The median age of 34.8 years compares to the statewide average of 38.5 years, while a third in Northwest Arkansas have at least a college degree, compared to a quarter statewide.
The median household income in Northwest Arkansas is $71,767, well above the statewide figure of $52,528, and slightly higher than the U.S. national average.
In Bentonville, the influence of Walmart and the family of founder Sam Walton is felt throughout the city.
The original Walton’s Five and Dime building still stands off the town square and is being renovated into an expanded museum documenting the early history of the company.
A temporary museum space, not far from the square, includes a 3D image of Walton that answers visitors’ questions.
The city has become a major tourist destination since Walton’s daughter, Alice, founded the Crystal Bridges Museum in 2011.
The Crystal Bridges collection, now worth about $1.7 billion, includes famous works of art such as Norman Rockwell’s “Rosie the Riveter,” and includes Frank Lloyd Wright’s house, which was moved to the museum grounds in 2015.
Admission to the museum’s permanent collection is free, thanks to a Walmart sponsorship, though tickets are up to $10 for some special exhibitions.
Not far from the museum, another project has been started, funded by Alice Walton: the School of Medicine, which is expected to receive its first class of students in 2025.
The Walton family has also spent millions of dollars on improvements throughout the area, including a system of bike trails that also attracts visitors.
Walmart is also a founding sponsor of the Bentonville Film Festival, an annual diversity-focused event that provides guaranteed multi-platform distribution for winning films.
Although the film festival was first held in 2015, Bentonville did not get a working movie theater until 2018, and screenings were held throughout the city using mobile projection units.
The city now has a six-screen luxury complex with drinking and dining options.
Wall Street Journal travel writer Katherine O’Shea Evans, who wrote about Bentonville last month, visited from the Denver suburbs with her husband and three-year-old son.
She praised Bentonville as a cultural hotspot that’s easier to navigate with a toddler in a stroller than a larger city.
O’Shea-Evans writes glowingly about local restaurant Preacher’s Son, housed in a renovated church and overseen by executive chef Neil Gray, who previously worked at Napa Valley’s famed French Laundry.
She also praised upscale restaurant Lady Slipper and family-owned roaster Airship Coffee.
“The Bentonville that existed 20 years ago no longer exists,” Republican state Sen. Jim Dotson, whose district includes part of the city, told the AP earlier this year.
“We’ve had so much growth, so much influx of people, that it’s virtually unrecognizable to Sam Walton, the small historic town of Bentonville where the five-and-dime game began.”
(tags for translation) Northwest