The Northwest Arkansas Council has announced a business initiative to prioritize support for the 2020 census.
The Council, John R. Tyson and Kara Wilkins have partnered, according to a news release, to educate regional community leaders in the hopes of catalyzing the business community’s leadership. Tyson is the chief sustainability officer for Tyson Foods and a member of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s Complete Count committee. Since being named CSO in September, Tyson has been leading the company’s strategy to communicate the importance of the census to Tyson Foods employees.
Wilkins leads Arkansas Counts, an organization focused on ensuring all Arkansans get counted in the 2020 census with a focus on hard-to-count communities. The announcement was made at a special Council meeting on the topic.
"The census helps define the nation – in particular cities and regions – in terms of population and demographic makeup," Nelson Peacock, president and CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Council, said in a statement. "This information is important to businesses for marketing and growth opportunities and data-driven decisions. In addition, census data establishes the baseline for the distribution of federal funding and legislative districts."
Arkansas receives nearly $10 billion annually in federal funding under various programs, according to a recent report from the GW Institute of Public Policy. The Arkansas State Data Center estimates a 1% undercount in Northwest Arkansas could result in $170 million in lost funds over 10 years for Benton and Washington counties.
"With 141,000 [Tyson Foods] team members around the world and 25,000 in the state of Arkansas, we aspire to be leaders in the business community and the communities where we work and live," Tyson said in a statement. "That responsibility includes advocating for census participation and helping everyone understand the importance of being counted."
Tyson and Wilkins provided best practices and asked businesses to make a commitment to support the census to ensure an accurate count. Among those best practices are creating printed materials and communications, setting up information booths, designating one or more individuals within a company to take ownership of the census initiative, and creating safe spaces within company offices for employees to ask questions or complete the census.
Tyson and Wilkins also emphasized the importance of partnering with trusted voices within specific communities to reach Arkansas’ hard-to-count population. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 30% to 40% of the population in Washington and Benton counties could represent hard-to-count populations, attributable to immigration and income status.
As part of the initiative, the Council and EngageNWA created an NWA census toolkit that makes the business case for support and provides resources to reach hard-to-count populations. The Council plans to engage with businesses and stakeholder groups throughout early 2020 as the census gets underway.
"Every single person in the region and the state needs to be counted," said Peacock. "We need every available resource to continue to move our economy forward."