The Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District was established in 1967 and subsequently funded in part by Arkansas Act 118 of 1969 based upon the template set by Congress in 1965 by Public Law 89-136, known as the Public Works and Economic Development Act.

The Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District is defined as a “public entity” that is a non-profit, multi-county, multi-purpose, and multi-funded Planning and Development Organization serving Baxter, Benton, Boone, Carroll, Madison, Marion, Newton, Searcy and Washington Counties. The District is governed by a Board of Directors comprised of each respective County Judge, elected municipal officials, along with representatives from the private sector, institutions of higher learning and other fields throughout the nine county District. All incorporated municipalities within the designated counties are members of the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District.

The Planning and Development District system is a major instrument of the U.S. Economic Development Administration to foster economic growth through multi-county planning and investment.

The Economic Development District system in Arkansas, because of the control and accountability maintained through the local governing body, is utilized as a service delivery system by both the federal and state government. This is illustrated at the federal level through various forms of legislation that mandate implementation on a regional basis, such as the EDA Public Works grants and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).