Northwest Arkansas Council announced this week the Life Works Here initiative, in which it will invest “more than $1 million over six months to attract top talent to the region.” The incentives are “made possible by philanthropic support from the Walton Family Foundation, at the recommendation of Steuart Walton and Tom Walton,” the website says, and targets “STEAM professionals and entrepreneurs” age 24 or older who currently live outside of Arkansas and can buy/lease a house in Benton or Washington County within six months of acceptance. Also awarded to recipients: a street or mountain bicycle, or a membership to Crystal Bridges, Momentary, Amazeum, TheatreSquared, Walton Arts Center and Walmart AMP. A review panel will select the recipients after an interview process.
NWA Council has not set a number of incentives it intends to award. Also muddy: Though the program explicitly states that it does not offer employment and seeks remote workers who can do their job from NWA, it also highlights on its website NWA’s “more than 10,000 open positions and an exceedingly low 2.8% unemployment rate” under a heading that reads “Seeking a new employment opportunity?” From the FAQ:
Why is the NWA Council offering the incentive?
Northwest Arkansas has more than 10,000 job openings right now and has a shortage of talent to fill available STEAM jobs. We want to attract talent who will help us build a richer long-term talent pipeline that supports our thriving local economy.
The incentive is specifically targeting remote workers – we are looking for people who can meaningfully contribute to and actively participate in our vibrant community.
Criticism mounts, particularly among NWA community members who would like to see that million dollars directed to STEAM professionals and entrepreneurs already living in the region. More to come.