BENTONVILLE, Ark., Sept. 16, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, Walmart announced a $500,000 grant to the Northwest Arkansas Council supporting the advancement of healthy living and economic improvement initiatives throughout Northwest Arkansas. The grant is part of a three-year commitment by Walmart to fund the Greater Northwest Arkansas Development Strategy, a regional growth and development plan spearheaded in 2010 by the Northwest Arkansas Council, local chambers of commerce and other organizations. In its third year, the grant will impact more than 480,000 local residents through plans to increase access to and quality of education, job opportunities, healthy lifestyles and infrastructure improvements. Each of these areas of focus support Walmart's mission of creating greater opportunity in Northwest Arkansas by enhancing the quality of life for residents.
The Northwest Arkansas Council is a private, nonprofit organization committed to sustaining and improving the region as a great place to live and conduct business. Walmart founder Sam Walton was instrumental in establishing the Northwest Arkansas Council in 1990, and the organization played an active role in many of the region's most notable successes over the past 20 years.
Much like Mr. Walton's high interest in improving the region, Walmart and Sam's Club associates have provided their own, direct support to the Northwest Arkansas Council by offering hundreds of hours to participate in Northwest Arkansas-focused meetings and initiatives, and provide leadership in determining the most deliberate ways to accomplish many of the Council's 55 strategic actions."We follow the philosophy of operating globally and giving back locally, and are committed to enriching the lives of the people in our community. By supporting partners such as the Northwest Arkansas Council that share our mission of improving quality of life for area citizens, and by working to provide solutions to the challenges facing our region, we can bring tangible improvements to the region," said Karen Parker, senior manager for Walmart's Northwest Arkansas giving strategy. "The Northwest Arkansas Council is an exceptional organization that shares our commitment, and together, we will continue to make great strides to bring economic growth and lifestyle improvements to our home." Through The Northwest Arkansas Council's Greater Northwest Arkansas Development Strategy, the grant provided by the Walmart Foundation will help raise the standard of living for local residents through programs that support the following:
- Educational Achievement: The contribution by Walmart allows the Council to work with colleges and universities to increase how many Northwest Arkansas adults obtain a bachelor's degree or higher. The funds contributed support programs such as Reach Out NWA, an initiative to encourage individuals short of a high school degree finish school.
- Job Opportunities: Walmart's contribution and time provided by associates support the Council's work with entrepreneurs who want to turn great ideas into startups. Additionally, the donation allows the Council to market Northwest Arkansas as a great place to live and do business and helps support the Council's overall economic development program. As a result, the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers Metropolitan Statistical Area added 7,500 jobs in the first two years of the Council's five-year plan, and average wages increased by $1,900 to about $44,000 annually.
- Healthy Lifestyles: This year the Council launched EnergizeNWA, a community-led movement designed to increase residents' access to healthy foods and physical activity.
- Infrastructure Improvements: The Council has a long history of supporting efforts to improve highway infrastructure, develop and enhance the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport and protect the water supply. The regional airport administration aggressively pursues new air service with assistance from the Northwest Arkansas Council, and the Council worked to inform voters about Issue No. 1, a ballot measure approved last year. That measure funds highway construction projects statewide, and it includes starting 77 new lane miles as part of three major projects in Northwest Arkansas by the end of 2015.