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Chamber director talks up the town in business publication

Staff Report

Source: Arkansas Business

Chamber Director Pasha Watson  was featured in an executive Q&A in the Aug. 24 issue of Business. In the interview, Watson touts the Mena and Polk County area has a value that is above average.

Watson said the market’s highlights  include, “Being close to nature, individual freedom and people wanting to escape urban environments bring a significant amount of tourism to Mena.”

Watson said one of the main concerns the area is facing is support for small businesses and the impact of COVID-19.

“Our concern is not only the proprietors but the employment opportunities they provide to the community. Maintaining traveler confidence in our accommodations, restaurants and events is a top priority as restrictions are lifted,” she told Arkansas Business.

She said the area’s main selling points include reasonable tax rates and a competitive portfolio of commercial properties, and, according to BestPlaces, Mena’s cost of living is 26.8% lower than the U.S. average.

Other selling points included the airport, the hospital, and educational opportunities.

“Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport, located midway between Fort Smith and Texarkana, is a city-owned, general aviation facility 2 miles from downtown.

“Mena Regional Health System offers a diverse complement of inpatient and outpatient services to the communities of Polk County, western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma. Rich Mountain Nursing & Rehab is constructing a brand new facility with an initial projected budget of $14 million.

“The area also offers a quality educational system, including the University of Arkansas Rich Mountain. The college’s expanding athletics program and the new on-campus student housing and dining hall, a $7 million project, have contributed to increased enrollment and greater opportunities for its students and the community,” Watson said.

When asked how the completion of I49 would affect the area, Watson said a great number of things would change.

“We can foresee gas stations, fast-food restaurants and retail shops being built along Interstate 49 bringing more businesses into the area,” she said.

“Since this is a main shipping route and we are centrally located, its completion would increase opportunities for industry to come here. This, in turn, would be beneficial in creating employment opportunities.

“The completion would ease road congestion and deterioration by reducing commercial traffic through town. The travel time would be reduced and safety increased for tourists visiting the area and provide easier access to Texarkana and Fort Smith.”

Lesser known things about Mena that Watson said people should be aware of included the arts.

“Our downtown arts district is a tremendous asset to the community. There is a very active Ouachita Little Theatre that offers many well-produced shows throughout the year.,” she said.

“The Mena Art Gallery hosts the Art of the Heartland National Show and the Small Works National Competition. These competitions fill the gallery with an array of beautiful works from some of the best artists in the United States. There are other proprietors offering glass works and classes, local artisans’ pieces and a treasure trove of antique shops to investigate.”

About Pasha Watson

Watson, who joined the Mena-Polk County Chamber of Commerce in April 2018, describes herself as “pretty close” to a native. Her paternal grandfather was from Wickes, about 30 miles to the south, and she was born in De Queen before moving to Texas as a child. She previously worked in marketing and business development at Rose Aircraft Services in Mena and before that job held several executive positions with a home care agency in Texas. She was the managing editor of East Texas Outdoors magazine before returning to her native state.

Watson has a bachelor’s in history from the University of Texas as Tyler and an associate’s degree in business management from Tyler Junior College in 2002.

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