123: Aimee Ross, Director of Bike Bentonville

“I think for us is continuing to find the spaces to introduce more people to the sport, and how we play a role in that being at the table when we’re talking about what else do we need here in our community to continue to draw more cycling types, more different types of people that are riding all those different cycling types.”

– Aimee Ross

EPISODE PREVIEW:

It wasn’t long ago that the only thing we knew about Bentonville was that it was home to Walmart’s headquarters. Now in 2020, this small Arkansas town has made a name for itself in the cycling community and is continuing to grow by the day – literally. The town welcomes an average of 34 people moving to the area every day!

Aimee Ross, Director of Bike Bentonville, is my guest on this episode and shares how collaboration is key. By structuring Bike Bentonville under the city’s tourism bureau, Visit Bentonville, the community has done something truly unique. Ross discusses how she came on board as Director, the structure of the organization, the relationship with Visit Bentonville, the collaboration with other towns such as Fayetteville and so much more. 

In this episode, you’ll learn how Aimee and her team are not only introducing cycling to more people, they’re creating meaningful economic growth through outdoor recreation. Also, we talk through one of the most important and impactful facets of Bike Bentonville’s success, how the growing ‘cycling destination’ is intentionally creating an inclusive community around making cycling accessible to all interested residents and tourists. 

Bike Bentonville is putting the small town of Bentonville on the map. Learn how Aimee continues to build the stoke and get the word out about his gem of a cycling destination through multiple channels on this episode. It’s a good thing we include the transcript – this interview is so good, you’ll want to listen to it more than once, and read the transcript!

GUEST PROFILES:

Aimee Ross

Aimee Ross is a 14-year cycling industry veteran with experience spanning from manufacturing, sales, marketing, event coordination, advocacy, development, and education. She is currently the Director of Bike Bentonville, the Visit Bentonville cycling brand created to promote and sell Bentonville, Arkansas as a destination.  Cycling is her passion, and she believes it should be available to all people. Aimee’s focus on a daily basis is to help create more and better cycling access in Northwest Arkansas, doing her part to help create opportunities for a larger culture of active and healthy community members. Aimee holds a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Applied Arts from Central Michigan University.

TOPICS COVERED:

Bike Bentonville, Cycling, Bike Races, Bentonville, Tourism, Cyclo-Cross World Championships, Fayette, Cycling Events

SELECT QUOTES:

“…Recruited me to take this position in helping sell Bentonville as a tourism destination, in particular for cyclists. For me it was kind of a really good next step because what I love about mountain biking and cycling in general is the places that you get to go and what that does to connect people to the outdoors. I feel like I’ve kind of found my niche and this whole community is connecting the bike and the people to the places.”

“I think those first few years were slow development, like you see in many communities, putting the trials there, showing that people are using them, going and advocating for a little bit more, how that continues to build out and they really worked within the community, those advocates, to build more advocates…They really talked to her about what they were trying to do and what they wanted to create as a vision for this community, is providing opportunities for people that were living here to have an active, healthy lifestyle, but with the forthright to think that it could be a destination at some point in the future.”

“And then from there as we really started thinking about the vision overall, and moving forward, and how you’re really attracting tourists, it was just starting small and reaching out. What’s that five hour drive time to get people here? And reaching into those markets and using a lot of traditional channels, magazine ads, or opportunities to host travel writers from those communities that are maybe smaller publications that you don’t see at a national level, but are really good information sources for the people that are in those communities. That’s been super successful.”

“…It’s {her role} more than marketing and communications. It’s also trying to sell this community and convince people to come here. And then, in continuing to look for other opportunities to broaden what we have. And also being a part of the community and a collaborator in that as well. And being able to share some of those thoughts and experiences both from my former life, and then what I’ve learned in being here, and as a community member now, and a resident, someone that wants something, knowing that people these days want to travel to places where people want to live. So they can be kind of one in the same, a little bit there.”

“I think for us is continuing to find the spaces to introduce more people to the sport, and
how we play a role in that being at the table when we’re talking about what else do we need here in our community to continue to draw more cycling types, more different types of people that are riding all those different cycling types. Making sure that we do have something for everyone when it comes to cycling, and then how we’re integrating them into our community, and the arts and culture scene, and all the different special events that we have in that space. I mean, that’s one thing that we all kind of laugh about is there’s something to do here all the time, and when you go to those places you always tend to run in to someone that you know, and I’m not talking about just cycling-related events.”

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