BY LEANN DILBECK –
William Rainey, Chair of Mena’s Advertising and Promotion Commission, has announced that Candace Riner has been named the new Marketing Director. Riner is charged with promoting Mena to increase the tourism industry that is proven to be one of the county’s top and most viable economic stimulators. Riner said that she considers it both an honor and privilege to promote and represent this beautiful community, an excitement Rainey and the Commission greatly welcome, “She brings an upbeat spirit to the table and a true excitement and passion to see our community move forward. We look forward to her bringing a closer connection to our community and our churches, which will be something we’ve been missing.
Communications being key to her new job, Riner holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Speech Communication from Arkansas Tech University and has been working with civic, community and non-profit organizations for the last 14 years.
Riner, and her husband, Andy, the current Prosecuting Attorney for the 18th West Judicial District, moved to the area 9 years ago just after they married and consider Polk County to be their “home sweet home.”
Riner is eager to begin working with the Commission to create a strategic plan that will continue to capitalize on the assets and events of the area as well as its natural beauty but she also recognizes the large opportunity of targeting conventions and meetings thanks to some new additions, “Mena is now the best location in Southwest Arkansas to hold meetings, conventions, cultural, historical, and performing arts productions. With the addition of the Mena High School Performing Arts Center and the new Ouachita Center on the campus of Rich Mountain Community College, we have an opportunity to see more great things happen here.” Riner, is also eager to see the reopening of the area’s crown-jewel, “Upon the completion and reopening of Queen Wilhelmina State Park Lodge, I believe we will see an increase in tourism through Mena. The National Talimena Scenic Byway tops the lists of places to visit in Southwest Arkansas. We have a lot to offer motorcyclists, vacationers and weekenders.”
She is also looking forward to being involved with local efforts to revitalize Mena’s downtown, the gateway to the Talimena, “We want travelers through Mena to stop and enjoy our quaint little town by shopping with local businesses, enjoying the variety of eating establishments, and stay in one of the unique bed and breakfasts, hotels, or cabins.” Riner has a very clear vision that while Mena embraces the new, it can return to a more booming time, “I count it a blessing to live in this community and know so many wonderful people. I want to see Mena be the place that lifelong residents here talk about so often… the ‘good ole’ days’, when things were booming and growing… the time when downtown didn’t have vacant buildings and patrons were walking Mena Street with shopping bags… the days when the historical homes were not so historic yet and welcoming and offering warm hospitality to out of town guests. Yes! Those were the days! But they are not far from our reach!”
Riner appreciates the importance that local events have as an integral part of the marketing equation, “Of course, we have many local yearly events that take place and draw visitors to the area. We desire to see these events grow for the organizations that host them and for the benefit to our community. The A&P holds several sponsored events including the famous Lum & Abner Festival, Mena’s 4th of July Festival, the Rod Run, and the Christmas Festival.”
After working for a while in the private sector, Riner began utilizing her event coordination and communication talents for two different area Christian non-profit organizations. She will continue to own and direct Dream Spinners, a Christian-based dance and performance company, which is in its 16th year. She is also president and director of a character and social graces girls’ ministry, Princess in His Image Ministries and currently serves as the board chair for Fresh Start Pregnancy Resource Center in Mena.
Riner also recognizes that there is strength in numbers and that the city’s residents can be the most powerful ambassadors and recruiters, a group that she plans to be a resource for and to share her contagious enthusiasm, “This is a great place to live, work and play. We have numerous parks and recreational opportunities. Visitors and residents alike can hike, fish, hunt, golf, canoe, bike, boat, horseback, off-road and the list just goes on! Each resident can be a part in the promotion of Mena and our beautiful area… to share and encourage others to come enjoy and stay awhile. I want to challenge each person to find us on Facebook – VISIT MENA – and “like” our page. When you see something posted about what is going on here, please share so your friends and family from outside our area will see what ‘great things are happening here’ and want to visit. We can work together to make this a better place to live, work and play.”
Tourism is a $5.9 billion industry to Arkansas and Riner plans to capitalize on the exceptional job that the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism do in pulling tourists into our state and she will focus on bringing them to Mena.
“I look forward to visiting with many familiar faces, meeting many new people and representing and serving our community and people in this position.” Riner said she believes that God led her into this new endeavor and is eager to see more ‘good things happen’ here.