In marketing today, if you’re doing it the same way you did it five years ago — or even one — you’re probably doing it wrong.
And so it is with the product you’re marketing. Take Little Rock. I’m pleased to say that Little Rock keeps changing, keeps evolving and frankly, keeps getting better.
The latest development in Little Rock’s offerings is the River Market Entertainment District, the product of a recent state law that allows cities to designate areas where guests are allowed to carry open beer, wine or mixed drinks in outdoor areas. In Little Rock, that’s the 300-600 blocks of President Clinton Avenue, the 100 block of Ottenheimer Street and St. Vincent Plaza and the entirety of Ottenheimer Market Hall and the River Market pavilions, all in the existing downtown River Market District, and walkable to the most-heavily trafficked area for convention — and meeting-goers.
Effective Aug. 23, participating bars and restaurants will offer a branded RMED cup and wristband that allow guests to stroll the sidewalks and take in the sights. They can wander from bar to bar — provided they first empty their plant-based, compostable Greenware RMED cup, to be refilled in the new place. Now, will visitors come here just for the entertainment district? No. But couple that with all the other great things Little Rock has to offer visitors, and they’re a whole lot more likely to come here.
Other developments around town include the burgeoning East Village area, where Cathead’s Diner, the Railyard, the Distillery Building (which will host a coffee shop and corporate offices), Rebel Kettle, Lost 40 Brewing and Heifer International are located. The Southeast Trail also starts in East Village, leading east from the Clinton Center, past the airport to the David Terry Lock and Dam and Park. After its $70 million renovation, Robinson Center continues to draw large crowds.
The Arkansas Arts Center has just embarked on $128 million renovation project, temporarily relocating to the Riverdale Shopping Center on Cantrell Road. MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History reopened last year after a million-dollar renovation, and the surrounding MacArthur Park has had upgrades as well, including the recent installation of a sculpture honoring our sister city relationship with Hanam, South Korea. And a new master plan for Ottenheimer Hall in the River Market District is being finalized now to help plan the future of that downtown destination, long popular with locals and visitors.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that bikes in Arkansas are big business, providing some $140 million in economic impact to Northwest Arkansas in 2017, according to a study by the Walton Family Foundation. Little Rock is rich with cycling opportunities, but hasn’t gotten the same attention as our neighbors to the northwest. Our city parks department is helping change that, working on some kickass trails around the city. Near the Stifft Station/Capital View area, a new project at Rose Creek Park will push a Southwest Trail spur towards the Arkansas River Trail. (The Southwest Trail is the ambitious project that will eventually connect Little Rock and Hot Springs via a 65-mile paved, off-street trail.)
The department is also closing in on a recreational trails-program grant (a state-federal offering) to add to and improve the volunteer-built trails at Boyle Park, making it a destination that can compete on a national level. They have a design for another trail complex west of I-430 that will offer more elevation gain than just about anything else in the area… a feature that will definitely raise our profile in the MTB world. And the state’s third Monument Trail, created with the assistance of the Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation, will be going in at Pinnacle Mountain State Park, joining those MTB trails at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area and Mount Nebo State Park.
There’s a lot more going on in and around Little Rock. We were just named one of the 2019 Top 100 Places to Live on Livability.com, and just a few weeks ago, Outside Magazine named us one of their Top 12 Places to Live — a testament to our growing outdoor-focused amenities and quality of life. So even though some of our harshest critics live here, others are seeing that Little Rock really does have it going on. To get the message out, our marketing plans have been targeting areas like Dallas, Chicago, Kansas City, Memphis and Shreveport with more strategic — and more digital — advertising.
So far, the results are encouraging. As we wrap up our first year with new advertising agencies of record, we’ll continue to refine our messaging and targeting to bring even more visitors to Arkansas’s capital city.
There’s a lot more going on in and around Little Rock … Little Rock really does have it going on.