“Bentonville, it turns out, is a bit of a Coolsville but, so far as I could see, without a whiff of pretension.”
Northwest Arkansas — with a metro area consisting of Benton, Madison, and Washington counties — has become the country’s 100th-largest metro area with the latest crop of movers. From April 2020 to July 2022, its population increased 5.4% to 576,403, according to the latest US Census Bureau data.
Wearing ball caps and smiles, first gentleman Bryan Sanders and Runway Group co-founder Tom Walton met Axios NWA at OZ1 Flying Club last week to discuss the Natural State Initiative.
“I really think Arkansas has the potential to be the equivalent or better than Colorado [in] 10 years’ time in terms of owning the outdoor rec experience,” Walton told Axios.
Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed an executive order establishing the Natural State Initiative and Natural State Advisory Council, for which Brian Sanders will serve as its chair. Gov. Sanders said the effort will be part of an emphasis in her administration to promote the state’s highly regarded parks, rivers and hunting grounds to boost tourism and public health.
More than 200 people gathered at the Record in Bentonville last Thursday for an Axios event focused on the recreation economy in the Natural State. At the event, Tom Walton, co-founder of holding company Runway Group, alluded to an announcement related to gravel cycling. What’s happening: Runway will on Monday reveal the Arkansas Rural Recreational Roads initiative — Arkansas R3 — that will designate specific routes where cyclists can enjoy low-traffic, dirt- and gravel-road cycling.
The Walton brothers appeared last month on a panel with AOL co-founder Steve Case during Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s policy forum known as the America Leads summit. The event, held in Bentonville, attracted politicians, business leaders and policy wonks from across the country.
As recently as five years ago, the brothers wondered if there would be enough opportunities in northwest Arkansas to keep them anchored. They’ve since learned the answer. They now think northwest Arkansas can be the best place to live in the country as long as it learns from mistakes made by other fast-growing areas.