Ever wondered what it was like living in Austin a few decades ago? According to recent ads, that dream can become a reality in an unlikely locale—just an eight-hour drive away in Northwest Arkansas.
Recent Austin-centric ads by the Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Northwest Arkansas Council are targeting Austinites to make the move to the four-county, 11-city region as it's in the midst of transforming from a rural corner of the state to a budding hub for tech, big-city migrants and a rich cultural scene.
Greater Bentonville's Andre Arceneaux created the "Bentonville City Limitless" ad ahead of their annual tech summit.
Look familiar? Greater Bentonville's "Bentonville City Limitless" ad targets Austinites as they advertise their annual tech summit.
As the area makes national headlines—Bentonville was the nation's fifth fastest-growing city in 2019 and has seen growth in tech as businesses flock to Walmart's HQ—Arceneaux said the council looked to residents from tech hubs like Austin and Denver to bring their talents to NW Arkansas.
"The plan was to focus on areas that are traditionally viewed as hubs for technology and industry and challenge what people have preconceived about Northwest Arkansas," Arceneaux said. "You hear 'Arkansas' and you get an image in your mind, when the truth is, Bentonville is as vibrant and diverse as towns three times its size. The imagery in the ads is meant to show people that Bentonville is just like the town you live in, so why not give us a chance?"
Toss in incentives like the Life Works Here initiative, which offers a $10,000 cash award to talented new move-ins, and the outreach appears to be working. Film producer Kristin Mann grew up in Little Rock, but it wasn't until she had settled down in Austin that she heard about what the northwest corner of her home state had to offer.
Like millions of others during the pandemic, Mann was forced to rethink her priorities as the pandemic changed her perspective on life. Pair Austin's ever-increasing cost of living with the Texas winter storm, and Mann knew it was time to make a change.
Former Austinite Kristin Mann, shown on the set of 2020 film The Quarry, is soaking up the slower-paced lifestyle in NW Arkansas. (Kristin Mann)
With a burgeoning live music scene, a variety of restaurants and an outdoorsy culture that resembles her former city, Mann said Bentonville was a relatively easy adjustment despite its population of around 50,000.
"The arts and culture scene is just not something I was aware existed in the state of Arkansas," Mann said. "It's really nice because it just feels like there's a level playing field."
NW Arkansas' music scene includes FreshGrass Festival, an annual live music bluegrass fest. (FreshGrass Festival/Facebook)
Mann isn't alone—according to Greater Bentonville President Graham Cobb, he's heard plenty of stories of Austinites, Californians and other big-city dwellers that have uprooted their families and businesses in search of a better quality of life.
Cobb says he met one such transplant at a mountain bike race not long ago.
"I asked, 'What made you choose this?' and he said, 'I just wanted to know what everyone is talking about,'" Cobb said. "We know for years people have been leaving these major cities and moving to Bentonville for various reasons, the biggest one being that quality of life begins to decay as cost of living becomes increasingly prohibitive. But to hear that from some random person riding bikes is pretty amazing."
With a large university (the University of Arkansas), a growing entrepreneurial scene and Hill Country-esque views, looking at NW Arkansas may be like deja vu' for seasoned Austinites. But the region will need to be careful if they want to stay "Bentonville City Limitless."
Northwest Arkansas hasn't been shy about their desire to bring in Austin's tech talent with Facebook ads.
The Northwest Arkansas Council is working to bring disgruntled Austinites to the region with various ads.
According to Nelson Peacock, President of the Northwest Arkansas Council, city officials are working to make sure they don't repeat bigger cities' mistakes.
"We are trying to take some of the lessons learned from cities like Austin that grew really fast," Peacock said. "It's way easier said than done, (but) as we recruit people from these larger cities, we're trying to take the lessons from them and trying to build a future here that's better for the people that live here."
NW Arkansas is keen on taking Austin's top talents. Rex Nelson, who wrote in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette about Bentonville's explosive growth earlier this month, said it's a compliment—they're reaching out to Austin because they want the best of the best.
"Northwest Arkansas needs tech talent, and the Austin area is the best place to go in this part of the country for tech talent," Nelson said.
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Samsung might soon be making more moves in the Austin metro.
The tech giant, which made waves as it announced plans to build a $17 billion chip plant in Taylor in late 2021, might be looking to expand in the Northeast Austin area, according to an Austin Business Journal report.
ABJ said the South Korean company is seeking more tax breaks from nearby Taylor and Manor school districts. The company filed documents requesting Chapter 313 incentives related to the breaks Saturday, and ABJ said each district will review the requests separately on Tuesday.
"While we do not have specific plans to build at this time, the Chapter 313 application process is part of our long-term planning to evaluate the viability of potentially building additional fabrication plants in the U.S.," Samsung Austin Semiconductor LLC.'s director of communications, Michele Glaze, told the ABJ.
But Samsung has made headlines for more than just the $17 billion plant: In early 2022, the company caught heat for two separate spills of millions of gallons of wastewater into tributaries near its semiconductor plant.
While no expansion is promised, ABJ speculates that expansions could occur at the 1,200 acre planned Taylor factory or near the chipmaking factory on Austin's East Parmer Lane. Both expansions could bring even more revenue and job opportunities to Samsung's Texas home.
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A first minute error gave Austin FC an early setback, but with the help of two red cards and two second-half goals, the Verde and Black still forced a last-minute tie in a messy home battle against Orlando City SC Sunday night.
With the 2-2 draw, Austin dropped from No. 1 in the MLS West conference but still earned a point in the standings thanks to a penalty kick goal from Sebastian Driussi and a breakthrough shot from striker Moussa Djitte, who scored his first goal with the club in the final minute of play.
Here are the top three takeaways from the match:
A fateful mistake
Just days after his highlight reel-worthy LAFC performance, Austin keeper Brad Stuver scratched heads as he gave away a goal seconds into the game. Stuver's fateful pass went straight to Orlando's Junior Urco, who was already in the box and tapped a quick pass to Ercan Kara to score the first goal of the match.
The mistake forced Austin to chase a tie for the rest of the match, especially as center back Ruben Gabrielsen benched himself in the 20th minute. The team later said Gabrielsen has come down with something similar to a stomach bug.
Orlando would score two minutes later, and Austin FC left the first half looking like the opposite of its "Best in the MLS" self from just days prior.
The two red cards
By the 60th minute of the match, however, the tides had turned. Orlando's Rodrigo Schlegel, who had already racked up a yellow card on a handball, was ousted from the game two minutes later for yet another handball, this time in the penalty box.
Austin's main man Sebastian Driussi took the kick and sent it in for his eighth goal of the season to make it 2-1.
And just over five minutes later, Orlando's Cesar Araujo was the second man in purple kicked out of the match after he kicked Alex Ring on a slide tackle near the box. Austin was left with just over 20 minutes, and just nine opponents left, to try and tie it up.
The 'Mouss' is loose!
As the whistle blew and regulation time ran out, Orlando seemed to have won the match. The team had withstood many, many close calls—including two shots off the post from Austin FC's Diego Fagundez and Maxi Urruti—as Austin FC flooded the box with 22 cracks at a goal.
But thanks to the chaotic nature of the game, Austin FC was given nine extra minutes to tie it up. Moussa Djitte was the one who finally broke through five minutes into stoppage time, earning his first goal in Verde to put a 2-2 cap on the wild home match.
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