Metroplan’s demographic review and outlook for 2013 shows Faulkner County is the fastest growing county in the metropolitan statistical area of central Arkansas.
The metropolitan statistical area, or MSA, defined by Metroplan is made up of six central Arkansas counties and is referred to as the Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway region.
Conway and Greenbrier stand out in the annual report as second place leaders among larger cities experiencing population growth. The larger community with the most growth was Bryant with 12.4 percent since 2010, according to the report.
Conway and Greenbrier experienced growth at 6.4 percent. Greenbrier passed the 5,000 mark in 2013.
Central Arkansas MSA grew at 1.1 percent in the past few years, faster than the .5 percent rate for the whole state of Arkansas.
Among the smaller but growing towns and communities in Faulkner County were Mayflower, with a rate of 7.6 percent; Vilonia with a growth rate of 9.1 percent; Wooster at 11.2 percent; and unincorporated communities grew 3.4 percent.
Faulkner County as a whole grew 5.5 percent.
Components of population change outlined by Metroplan include births, deaths and migration.
Migration into Faulkner and closely following Saline county was found to be the cause of growth rather than natural population expansion.
Metroplan’s report found the local workforce is in transition, but growing slowly.
The area’s unusually diverse industries match the U.S. average, and this was found to be the reason the area has suffered less than others in an economic downturn.
However, the diversity that is advantageous in a downturn is a handicap in the recession’s aftermath, yielding a slower recovery.
While guaranteed growth industries like housing and banking have recovered more slowly, there is growth in manufacturing.
"The low-skilled, labor-intensive manufacturing of the past is mostly gone, supplanted by a highly-skilled, more creative, flexible process.
"Pay rates are good, but the work requires a carefully-trained, specialized workforce," the report states.
A newer trend in Central Arkansas indicates locals decided they need better skills.
Metroplan found adult college enrollments now outrun the national average.
Locally, high-end occupations of management, business, science and arts climbed faster than the national average while jobs in natural resources, construction and maintenance requiring lower and middle skill levels dropped by 24 percent over the nation’s 14 percent average.
Higher skills and creativity are essential for the future of the local workforce as the region takes after national trends, which show a "diminishing middle," or the
Metroplan says the age group between 25 and 34 is the one to watch locally for emerging trends.
The group is opting for concentration, rather than dispersion, in choosing a place of residence.
Downtowns and areas closer to activity centers are more popular than the suburban residence patterns young adults favored 20 years ago, according to the report.
Metroplan is a voluntary association of local governments originally formed as a planning organization. The group focuses on issues affecting Central Arkansas and develops transportation plans.
The outlook report is one of two trend reports published annually.