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Northwest Arkansas is a region gaining wider appeal as people flee larger metros in search of a lower cost of living and a better quality of life.

The appeal of Northwest Arkansas can be derived from the data. For instance, a family making $42,000 in Northwest Arkansas would have to make $100,000 in San Francisco to maintain the same cost of living. And, as a recent study by the Walton Family Foundation points out, “95% of residents reporting being ‘very happy’ or ‘fairly happy’ with the region.” But what lies outside of the correlations? Let’s attempt to get to the heart of the matter.

There is something beyond the dollar signs, something that doesn’t show up in surveys, that sets this region apart. A kind of way-of-being or aura around the economic calculus, that emits from those who call this region home. We propose it is this⁠—a strong sense of community⁠—that sets our region apart. An intangible thing, probably best captured and felt in stories like the one below.

Springdale Community Comes Together To Make Local Girl’s Birthday Party Special” – KFSM

The local news shared 150 headlines this week, but this one stuck out and seems to perfectly encapsulate Northwest Arkansas’ essence.

Here is the story, as shared by the girl’s mom:

“I’m Stephanie, Shamai’s mom. We had a birthday party for my daughter this past Saturday and we invited 20 kids to celebrate, but only two showed up. When we saw that our time was running out on our reservation, my family and I decided we’d invite the community. So I posted to Facebook that I still had room for 17 kids to join us to celebrate my daughters birthday and share a great time. Everything was paid, so we wanted to enjoy it.

The response was touching, families started to fill the room! Some couldn’t stay, but stopped by to wish Shamai a happy birthday. The gestures of kindness were very sweet. “Our community is amazing, and I’m so grateful this happened. We learned a great lesson from this, you find kindness where you least expect it!”