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Arkansas Metro Areas Downgraded

Four Arkansas cities and their surrounding areas face demotion and possible economic repercussions if a proposed statistical change is adopted by the federal Office of Management & Budget.

The OMB received a recommendation to double the core population required for designation as a metropolitan statistical area from 50,000 to 100,000. If the population threshold is changed, current Arkansas MSAs that are based around Hot Springs, Jonesboro, Pine Bluff and Texarkana would be redesignated as micropolitan statistical areas.

OMB suggests the statistical reset is needed because the 50,000 population standard has been in place since the 1950 Census, yet by 2019, the country’s population had more than doubled.

The OMB made clear that its designation of areas as metropolitan or micropolitan was “solely for statistical purposes.” However, city planners and developers such as Mark Young, CEO of the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce, are skeptical.

“There are a lot of ways it would impact us,” Young said. “Many companies and many site location consultants across the country want to locate in a metropolitan area and often use MSAs to conduct their search. Part of that is because the perception is that metro areas are going to have larger and higher-skilled labor force with amenities to support that particular company.”

Jeff Hawkins, the executive director of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission, said the OMB is careful to say the change is just for statistical purposes. For certain funding programs from the Department of Transportation, an area has to have a MPO, something that could be affected by a change in MSA status.

“Whether that would affect their programs, their DOT programs, their HUD programs depends on that particular program,” said Hawkins. “They could very well continue to say we’re going to use 50,000. It’s up to them. There’s not a good answer to who is going to be affected and how from an economic development standpoint.”

Metropolitan Statistical Areas in Arkansas   

 

Core population*

Total population*

Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers

237,384

536,120

Fort Smith

87,891

249,152

Hot Springs

38,797

99,386

Jonesboro

78,394

133,860

Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway

330,853

744,483

Memphis**

651,073

1,344,910

Pine Bluff

41,474

89,437

Texarkana

29,657

149,308

* 2019 estimates
** West Memphis’ population estimated at 24,402
Source: U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey

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You are here: Home News In Brief Arkansas Metro Areas Downgraded