FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Immigrants make up a sizable portion of the population in Northwest Arkansas. In fact, nearly half the area’s population increase stems from people migrating there. Fayetteville city officials are working to make sure these immigrants feel welcome.
“I love the farmers market and every Saturday I go and hang out there,” said Masahiro Hashimoto, a student at the University of Arkansas.
Listening to the music and taking in the sights and colors of the market is one thing that makes Fayetteville feel like a home. Hashimoto is from Japan and making that transition wasn’t easy.
“It was like a mix of feelings,” Hashimoto said.
He is just one of the over 15,000 immigrants who contributed to the population increase in Fayetteville.
“At XNA, they say (things) like welcome back to the Fayetteville, even though I was not born in Fayetteville, they say welcome back to the Fayetteville,” Hashimoto said.
But Fayetteville wants to do more than just say welcome.
“We want to make sure that we have measurable goals to look at and that we have strategies in place,” said Augusta Branham, a representative from the City of Fayetteville communications department.
Welcoming Fayetteville is the plan to make that happen. The city is focusing on improving its transportation, education, economic and legal resources for immigrants. There will be four more public input workshops from now until October in different locations across the city. Even if you can’t make it out to one of the public input workshops, there’s a survey online where you can prioritize things like community, education, and economic strategies. Hashimoto took the survey and very quickly knew where his priorities were.
“When I first came here I really struggled with name of the bus stop because the bus driver is kinda, it’s hard to hear what the bus stop is saying,” he said.
But even so, he believes Fayetteville is doing a lot of things right.
“It’s absolutely the people, the people is awesome,” Hashimoto said.
The “Welcoming Fayetteville” plan is part of a larger organization called “Welcoming America” that is working to create more inviting communities.