In early April, events professionals around the world observed Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID), an annual celebration focusing on the impact of business meetings, conventions and trade shows on events, a $325 billion industry in the United States. Of 10,000, just 13 of the celebrants with the esteemed Certified Meeting Professional designation (CMP) reside in Arkansas.
Hospitality remains one of the largest industries in the state, generating an annual revenue of $5.6 billion. It is estimated 25% of those dollars can be attributed to meetings and events. Bringing in almost half a million visitors and their dollars along with them, annual events like Bikes, Blues & BBQ, Bentonville Film Festival and the Walmart Shareholders Meeting demonstrate the importance of the industry in Arkansas. The domino effect on local shops, restaurants and attractions helps keep seats, tills and workers’ shifts full.
Event planning can be a lucrative career choice to Arkansans who are starting to navigate the job market or revisiting career aspirations. It’s also attractive for those who want to plan meetings outside the state without relocating to an event hub like Las Vegas or Orlando.
Until recently, those designing events in rural areas were resigned to keeping it local or taking on long commutes to an office in order to work. From clients to venues, there weren’t many options to gain business unless potential meetings were coming into Arkansas. If event planning positions in hotels or convention centers were filled or limited, it meant moving to find a job or pursuing a different path altogether. Staying put in Arkansas and career progression didn’t seem to go hand in hand until now, thanks to technology and progressive thinking in the workplace.
With remote work growing in popularity, many are planning their events from anywhere they want and traveling to execute the details while on-site. This is enticing to those with the travel bug. Seeing the world becomes within reach to those outside of the major cities usually attached to the business of events. Online peer forums, video conferencing and online event software programs that allow content sharing make it easy to collaborate and manage projects whether at home or on the road.
For those specializing in a concentration, there are a number of available options suited to various interests such as corporate, medical and government. For planners who desire to earn designations, organizations like Meeting Planners International (MPI) and the Events Industry Council (EIC), which oversees the CMP designation, offer support through a number of online learning options such as webinars and virtual courses. Required continuing education credits no longer demand classroom presence and can be completed through flexible scheduling.
Those who don’t want to relocate or deal with ever-growing commutes reap the benefits of lower fuel consumption. That helps to keep the Natural State “natural” while living in an area with one of the most rapidly growing metros in the country. Having the ability to travel nationally and globally while earning a competitive salary well above the state’s average make event planning an enticing and realistic career choice.
Local governments around the United States are starting to pay attention by focusing efforts on attracting remote workers to their respective areas. Recently, Vermont offered a $10,000 incentive among other perks to remote workers who move to the state. Maine and Oklahoma quickly followed suit. Arkansas benefits by keeping its residents and their tax dollars right here in the state.
As we continue to pave the way toward progress by supporting and highlighting outside-the-box career choices for our residents, we can continue to establish that big ideas are not confined by small places.
And that’s an event to be celebrated.
Editor’s note: Heather Wilson (CMP) is based in Northwest Arkansas and oversees events for remote-work leader TaxJar, which automates sales tax calculations, reporting and filings for e-commerce businesses. The opinions expressed are those of the author.