50 Smartest Companies of the Year 2021
The Silicon Review
Bentonville, a city in Arkansas, has long been known as the birthplace of the global retail leader Walmart. It is now the new American city on the map, with a big heart and even bigger ambition. Today, the city has become the intersection where modern progress meets rich history, where the arts meet innovation, and where companies meet communities.
Located in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, Bentonville is easily accessible from most major cities by air and just a short drive from Kansas City, Dallas, Oklahoma City, St Louis, and Little Rock. But the city has become a city to visit lately due to its splendid growth story. The U.S. Census Bureau has ranked Bentonville as the nation’s fifth fastest-growing city. Not to forget, the city is a mecca for cycling enthusiasts from all over the world.
Kalene Griffith had prepared to be a teacher all her life. She attended Kansas State University, where she studied early childhood education. Though her studies prepared her to be a teacher, Griffith found herself consistently employed by businesses in the tourism industry. Her previous employers include Parks and Recreation Dept in Dodge City, Walt Disney World in Orlando, Resort Sports in Orlando, Chambers of Commerce in Dodge City, KS, Jefferson City, MO, and Springfield, MO, and the YMCA of Callaway County in Fulton, MO. Her positions have ranged from lifeguard to director of sports, director of special events to the executive director. But destiny brought her to Visit Bentonville, Arkansas.
A mother of two, Kalene lives and breathes the tourism industry; it is clear she didn’t leave behind her teaching skills. Griffith’s passion lies in telling Bentonville’s story. You can often find her presenting Bentonville’s best practices to other tourism bureaus and speaking of Bentonville’s unique tourism successes. She was recently awarded the 40 under 40 by the Arkansas Business Journal and the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal C-Suite Award.
In 2005, Griffith was picked as the president of Visit Bentonville. She promotes Bentonville as a world-class travel destination and advocates for growth within the arts, cycling/trails, culinary, music, aviation, and film production. She believes that Bentonville is the place to be. In a brief interview with us, she talked to us about what’s coming up in the vibrant city of Bentonville and how innovation is thriving in the city.
Here the excerpts from the interview:
Q. There are so many choices when it comes to cities. What makes Bentonville unique?
Ranked as the nation's 5th fastest growing city in the United States by the U.S. Census Bureau, Bentonville, Arkansas, has experienced a significant culture shift in the last decade, becoming a unique and must-explore cycling and arts destination for national and international visitors alike.
Q. Generally newer cities are known to be expensive. How affordable is Bentonville?
Northwest Arkansas consistently gets high marks for growth, affordability and quality of life. The U.S. Conference on Mayors in 2019 named the metro region that includes Bentonville as the state’s No. 1 fastest growing economy.
Q. Do you conduct “user research” to work on providing better experience?
We engage on a daily basis with people visiting our city and are very engaged in the community. We recently launched a data driven study through Destination Next to delve into the visitor and hospitality experience even further. We are also leveraging the Voyage dashboard through Madden Media for additional user research and data.
Q. What are the various technologies leveraged by you in your lead generation efforts?
We utilize several, including Meltwater, Simpleview and Voyage, as well as digital marketing campaigns, to
engage with new and returning visitors.
Q. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful leader?
To be a successful leader, the ability to listen, collaboration in all aspects of the job and not being afraid to take strategic risks are extremely important.
Q. How do you market your services?
We market our city, attractions, sports, meetings and events through various services, including targeted social media, print, radio, TV, digital campaigns and direct sales tactics.
Q. Do you have any new services ready to be launched?
We have many new and exciting services on the horizon at Bentonville, including three new hotels. And more are on the way. The Momentary, which brings together contemporary visual, performing, and culinary arts into a welcoming, communal space. The Whole Health Institute and Chopra Medical Library, announced recently by Alice Walton. Osage Park is a new promenade for downtown, the 8th Street Gateway Park and all sorts of exciting public art.
Q. What does the future hold for your company and its customers?
Bentonville is the Mountain Biking Capital of the World and a must-visit arts destination. There’s extensive trail development, outdoor events and art exhibitions taking place in 2021, with more on the way!