BY MELANIE BUCK –
After months of searching, the Mena Advertising & Promotion Commission has awarded two new marketing contracts to conduct their future marketing and promotional efforts to continue to build an ever-growing local tourism industry.
The Richland Group in Fort Smith, has been contracted as the Social Media and Graphic Design consulting firm, while Donnie Crane, of Perryville, Arkansas, will serve as the Festival & Marketing Coordinator.
Rham Cunningham, formerly of Mena, works for the Richland Group negotiated with the A&P to securing the details of the contract but as Mark Harper, owner of the Richland Group explained, Mena A&P will benefit from the contract by “being able to use the Group’s vast amount of talent and resources.”
Donnie Crane is a recipient of the Henry Award, which is awarded at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism. The Henry Award is one of the most prestigious tourism industry awards in Arkansas and recognizes individuals, businesses, and organizations, which have distinguished themselves in the industry.
The search for a new coordinator has been ongoing since September 2015 when the former consultant chose not to seek a renewal of contract. The Commission submitted Requests for Qualifications with local media in October and November of 2015, receiving only two applicants in the first period and none in the second.
In December 2015, the Commission considered contracting with firms instead of individual consultants. Trying to find a larger pool of applicants, “The Commission felt it should reach out further since all media publications thus far had been local,” said a statement released by the Commission. In January, the Commission decided to place ads outside of Polk County and reached out to the Southwest Times Record Fort Smith, Hot Springs Sentinel, The Poteau Daily News, The Mena Star, including DeQueen, Waldron, and Mansfield, The Ouachita Trading Post, The Polk County Pulse, and Municipal League’s “City & Town” monthly magazine. Three applications were received after that period, of which one withdrew and another was past deadline. However, by taking the previous single-person position and splitting it into two separate positions, the Commission found what they were looking for and contracted with the out-of-town firms.
Other than the lack of applicants, the Commission stated that many other aspects of the A&P were being worked on, causing yet more delays. “During this entire process, the A&P Commission was holding many other committee meetings to take care of other time-sensitive business, including A&P Brochure Committee meetings, A&P Grant Funding Committee meetings, and A&P Festival Committee meetings,” said the statement. In 2015, restaurant tax revenue for Mena A&P were $172,185.00 and lodging tax revenue was $61,047.58. Consulting fees from both Cunningham and Crane will be paid for from those tax collections.
A&P Commissioner Terri Neugent, who has voluntarily filled the role of coordinator for the last seven months, said, “I believe I have managed to keep things on a proper timeline during the last six months; therefore, both consultants will be able to step in and transition into their positions in a smooth manner. In other words, neither will have to play catch up, they will just have to pick up from where I am currently at with tasks and projects.” She added, “I will continue to work with both during a transitional period, however long that may be… more so with Donnie because of the many areas of festival and marketing tasks and deadlines that are actively on-going at the present time. I anticipate that won’t take long.”
The A&P’s statement also said, “Mena is a great City and this area is one of beauty and enjoyment. Mena will, no doubt, be even better in getting the word out to many outside the area of the many attractions, recreations, points of interest, and events we have to offer. Donnie is quickly becoming acquainted with Mena and the people in the Community.”
Neugent said she was pleased with the progress when she spent the day with Donnie Crane and he “asked the right questions, showing his experience in the many areas of tourism and festivals.”
The A&P Commission is looking forward to working with both consultants and said in their statement, “The Commission is excited to have Donnie and the Richland Group as part of the A&P Team. Both are professionals and will bring their expertise and years of experience with them, which will be a great asset for the Commission.”