Northwest Arkansas

Making Northwest Arkansas an even better place to call home

With more than 500,000 people now living in Northwest Arkansas, the foundation is more focused than ever on working with our grantees to promote active transportation choices, create economic opportunities and preserve open space to help make the region an even more desirable place to call home.

Four targeted areas of strategic investment seek to improve educational achievement, promote economic development and make Northwest Arkansas an even better place to live, work and play.

1. Expand High-Achieving Pre-K-12 School Options

Existing public, private and charter schools in Northwest Arkansas consistently out-perform other schools in Arkansas. Therefore, our Expand High-Achieving Pre-K-12 School Options initiative is based on the desire to build on the success of those schools by expanding the choices available to a diverse and growing population in the region. This initiative aims to generate outstanding student academic outcomes, with the goal of having schools in the region ranked among the nation’s best in academic performance. 

The foundation assists in expanding public open enrollment charter school choices and supporting innovative programs in traditional public schools designed to close achievement gaps and increase academic performance. In addition, the foundation is conducting a feasibility study to determine the need and/or desire for the establishment of an independent private school in Northwest Arkansas.

Grantees include: Haas Hall Academy, Arkansas Arts Academy, Rogers Public Schools and Bentonville Public Schools.

2. Establish the Region as a Leader in Arts and Cultural Amenities

For almost three decades, the Walton Family Foundation has invested generously to establish and enhance art and cultural opportunities in the region. Future investments will be used to ensure continued operations of established arts and culture organizations; to increase and broaden attendance and exposure for those amenities; to support more performing and visual arts opportunities; and, to increase national recognition of the arts and cultural offerings of the region. 

Emphasis will be placed on increasing the number of performances at performing arts centers and companies that will attract a large audience with many of the tickets sold to patrons coming from outside of the region. We're currently conducting a study of the arts and cultural ecology of Northwest Arkansas, the result of which will help guide investment priorities in such amenities through 2020.

Grantees in this initiative include: Fayetteville Roots, Artists Laboratory Theatre, Trike Theatre and NWA Jazz Society.

3. Strengthen Coordinated Regional Economic Development

This initiative helps coordinate economic development and ensure the long-term economic vitality of Northwest Arkansas. The goal is to encourage a more regional approach in forming economic development policies and projects, and to encourage entrepreneurship. Measurable objectives have been established to determine success, including business incubation and net job growth.

Grantees include: Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission, Northwest Arkansas Council and various municipalities in the region.

4. Preserve a Sense of Place

This initiative enhances the qualities of Northwest Arkansas that make people want to call the region home. This includes the use of alternative transportation choices, revitalizing downtowns, preserving green space, and improving water quality by enhancing riparian areas. 

Working with grantees, our investments in this initiative aim to:

  • Increase the number and usage of natural surface trails;
  • Preserve and maintain green space;
  • Assist regional coordination on downtown revitalization and well-planned growth policies;
  • Assist with regional coordination on infrastructure and transportation networks, including multi-use hard surface trails; and,
  • Improve and protect the region’s water quality.

We have a proven track record in its ability to unify communities around key initiatives that benefit everyone. As we have since 2009, the foundation will continue providing investment capital for the continued development of the Northwest Arkansas Razorback Regional Greenway. Recently, trails supported by the foundation received “Model Trails” designations from the International Mountain Bicycling Association.

Grantees include: Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission, Illinois River Watershed Partnership and various municipalities in the region.

How We Measure Results

Much work has already been accomplished, and work continues through the efforts of these and many other grantees, which are focused on improving the quality of life in Northwest Arkansas. As their work continues, impact will be evaluated based on indicators including:

  • Academic gains among public charter and district students measured by quantifiable means such as proficiency on state tests, graduation rates and ACT scores;
  • Increase in the number of quality-rated child care centers and reductions in the waiting lists for these centers;
  • Number of new programs to develop expanding infrastructure and regional transportation needs and regional economic development initiatives;
  • Increases in attendance and programming at fine arts and cultural amenities;
  • Growth of trail system throughout northwest Arkansas communities;
  • Availability of immigration counseling, financial training, health care and educational services for the region’s multicultural population; and
  • Growing participation in conservation programs and improved water quality.