A fast-growing population and strong economy have long been characteristics of Conway, Arkansas. Recent reports from the U.S. Census Bureau and POLICOM, an organization that studies the dynamics of local economies, support these attributes of the city of 60,000.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Conway is the fastest-growing big city in Arkansas. The Census defines big cities as having a population of 50,000 or more. Brad Lacy, president and CEO of the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce, said this growth is driven by a strong economy.
"Conway and central Arkansas continue to see national recognition for the strength of our local economy," Lacy said. "A diversity of jobs in education, health care, manufacturing, technology, energy, government, and an emerging startup community combine to provide our residents with a variety of employment options.
"The availability of these jobs is the key driver in our continued residential growth – a trend that has occurred for several decades."
Conway’s population grew at a rate of 8.3 percent from 2010-2013. The Washington Post pulled the data from the census and compiled a map showing the fastest-growing large city in every state over this three-year period. Author Niraj Chokshi wrote that the longer time span "offers a more telling look at places that are experiencing sustained growth, rather than an unusually strong year."
Arkansas’s fastest-growing city makes up the 28th strongest metro area in the country. With 381 Metropolitan Statistical Areas in the U.S., the Little Rock – North Little Rock – Conway MSA is in the top 10 percent. The ranking comes from POLICOM’s 2014 economic strength report, which measures the economic conditions of the United States’ metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas.
According to POLICOM, the highest-ranked areas have experienced "rapid, consistent growth in both size and quality for an extended period of time." POLICOM has created economic strength rankings for all Metropolitan Statistical Areas since 1996 and all Micropolitan Statistical Areas since they were established in 2002.
The report defines economic strength as "the long-term tendency for an area to consistently grow in both size and quality."
To measure how the economy in each area has behaved, POLICOM used three groups of sectors to determine economic strength:
1. Group 1 sectors reflect the overall growth in size and quality. The quality of an economy is based on what people earn, which influences a population’s standard of living.
2. Group 2 sectors reflect how the economy behaves. It takes into account the growth or decline of the retail and construction industries, which are typically reactive to the condition of the economy.
3. Group 3 sectors examine growth in Welfare and Medicaid, which reflects a poor economy.
Read more about POLICOM’s methodology and view the entire list of economic strength rankings over the last decade at POLICOM.com.