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Cultural Diversity Strengthens Community

An inclusive and welcoming environment enhances Fayetteville's quality of life.

By Teree Caruthers on August 13, 2015

Ladies in white dresses pose for a picture at the Hispanic Heritage Festival
Fayetteville / Courtesy of the Hispanic Heritage Festival

Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, writes “the most successful regions welcome all kinds of people.” In Fayetteville, multiculturalism and inclusion have become important quality of life amenities for attracting relocating businesses and talent and stimulating growth.

Talent Attraction

“If this area was not as multicultural as it is, I would not be here,” says Javier Reyes, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Arkansas. “I’m originally from Mexico, but I received my Ph.D from Texas A&M University. When I entered the job market, I came to visit Fayetteville for a position as an assistant professor in economics. I was amazed at the multicultural diversity that exists in this area. It’s not just important for me personally, but for my kids, my family, and my friends.”

Reyes points to the symbiotic relationship between the region’s diversity and the presence of the University of Arkansas as well as major corporations, such as Tyson Foods, J.B. Hunt motor freight carrier, Pinnacle Foods and Superior Industries, maker of cast aluminum wheels, as a reason for the region’s growth.

“When you have a research one university … and when you have one of the largest corporations in the world, people say you’re going to have a lot of diversity,” Reyes says. “But I like to turn that around and say I think this university and these companies are so successful because the culture of diversity is here.”

Value of Diversity

As a business leader, Greg Fess, president, Pinnacle Media/Univision Arkansas, has experienced firsthand the economic and social value of diversity.

“Inclusion is so important to improving the city and bringing new ideas and enthusiasm which enrich the culture,” Fess says. “We get to experience firsthand the value of diversity every day working with both the Latino and non-Latino communities [at Univision]. We work with non-Latino community leaders for advertising, local events, and other community interests and we work hard to be a bridge to connect Latinos and non-Latinos together. Bringing these groups together is powerful and brings energy and new perspective to everyone involved.”

Fess says the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce is a prime example of that cross-cultural collaboration, partnering with Univision to sponsor the Northwest Arkansas Hispanic Heritage Festival, a multicultural festival focused on celebrating diversity and what the Hispanic culture has contributed to the region in music, art, education and food. The festival has grown to an attendance of more than  6,000, becoming more diverse in its membership and programs. Chamber and city leaders have taken three trips to Fayetteville’s sister city, Panama City, Panama, to cement relationships between the two communities.

Quality of Life Improvements

Luis Fernando Restrepo, professor of Spanish and assistant vice chancellor for diversity and community at the University of Arkansas, contends that the city’s inclusive culture has helped improve the quality of life for all residents.

“The conversation is about universal access to basic social services, starting with food and shelter, but also including equal education, health, transportation, recreation,” says Restrepo, who cites as an example Fayetteville’s trail system, which makes “our urban environment more accessible and human.”

“In addition, the Northwest Arkansas Council, EngageNWA and the Cisneros Center for New Americans have been working on the just and sustainable development of our communities,” he says.

Inclusion is so important to improving the city and bringing new ideas and enthusiasm, which enrich the culture.

Greg Fess
President, Pinnacle Media/Univision Arkansas
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