An economic development campaign created by the Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce has earned industry recognition from a national nonprofit association for chamber of commerce professionals.
The Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) awarded the Bentonville chamber Best in Show for Communications Excellence. Chamber President Graham Cobb accepted the award at the ACCE’s national convention in mid-July in Long Beach, Calif.
The name of the campaign is #BecauseBentonville. Chamber officials created the economic development strategy to test the premise that, according to Cobb, quality of place is increasingly a leading financial decision driver in a hyper-mobile economy.
“We are trying to take advantage of and capitalize on all the great things that are happening here,” said Cobb, who was named the chamber’s president and CEO in October 2017. “The idea is, how do we attract talent here based on our key differentiators. Not just the things that make us great, but the things that make is different.”
The campaign attracted people from around the United States to Bentonville on the strength of its quality of life attributes and amenities. Cobb identified those attributes — or differentiators — to be cycling, arts and culture, culinary offerings, education and the region’s unique economic ecosystem.
Through the campaign, the chamber invited what it calls “adventurepreneurs” to Bentonville and let them create their own #BecauseBentonville story in person. Cobb said adventurepreneur is a term invented to describe entrepreneurs that look for an exciting lifestyle where they live and work.
After identifying an initial crop of entrepreneurs, top prospects were delivered an interactive invitation. They were invited to Bentonville for Outerbike, the nation’s top cycling demo event held in October.
Guests who chose to visit Bentonville were given tickets to Outerbike, paid lodging and connected to ambassadors to Bentonville who reflect the same life and business experiences as those visiting.
One of those guests was Al Harris, CFO and COO of Utah-based Reaction Data. “This feels like we’ve been made privy to the next ‘cool spot’ before anyone else,” Harris said.
Events were held at co-working space and third-space gathering spots to put the city’s robust entrepreneurial ecosystem on full display.
“In today’s world, tourism is economic development,” Cobb said. “When you come somewhere to recreate, and Colorado is proof, it stands to reason that you look around and say, ‘Wow, this place is great. I could see myself [living] here. If I like to live here and want to be here, then the talent I need to help my business will want to be here, too.’”
ACCE’s Awards for Communications Excellence program is designed to showcase top communications and marketing work of chambers of commerce and similar organizations. Several thousand award entries have been submitted since the launch of the organization’s Awards for Communications Excellence, which is now in its 35th year.
The #BecauseBentonville campaign took the award for Best in Show in the campaigns category, which is the top honor available. It beat out competitors from across the nation for the best communications work in an organization with a budget of less than $3 million.
Cobb said #BecauseBentonville is not only about cycling culture. That was only the starting point.
“What’s the next big thing down the road? The Momentary opens in 2020,” Cobb said. “That is an opportunity for us to find entrepreneurs and high-level talent for modern art or creative venues. We see being able to use this to bring in a group for an art experience, or a food experience. And we don’t create those experiences. That’s why the collaborative efforts of all the community organizations are so important.”