The outdoor recreation industry has grown from a brave upstart to a heavyweight economy

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Business leaders from outside Denver for the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show said the industry’s influence has grown as recognition of its important contributions to the U.S. economy has grown.

Daniel Brenner, Denver Post Special

Scott Goggles on display during Day 2 of Outdoor Retailer on Thursday, January 30, 2020 at the Denver Convention Center.

The appeal of the industry is certainly evident from a stroll through the Colorado Convention Center, where more than 1,000 different brands are on display through Friday. More than 10,000 buyers, 1,300 designers and 800 members of the media have registered for the show, the largest outdoor industry trade in North America itself.

This is the third show to be held in Denver since Outdoor Retailer moved its influential trade shows from Salt Lake City in 2017.

Beyond all the activity of the winter and summer trade shows, which include a series of panel discussions on topics ranging from marketing to climate change, is the government data that shows just how successful the industry is. outdoor recreation has become important.

the US Bureau of Economic Analysis The Commerce Department released its first-ever report on the industry in 2018. It said the outdoor recreation economy accounted for 2.2% – $ 427.2 billion – of gross domestic product in 2017. Adjusted for inflation, industry GDP grew 3.9%, faster than 2.4% for the overall economy.

The second report showed that outdoor recreation was still at 2.2% of GDP, generating $ 778 billion for the economy and supporting 5.2 million jobs in 2018. The report included preliminary data state level figures, which showed that outdoor recreation accounts for 3.3% of Colorado’s economy.

Colorado Senator Cory Gardner and Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire sponsored legislation directing the Commerce Department to examine the contribution of outdoor recreation to the economy. The review will be done annually.

Federal economic reporting has helped the outdoor recreation industry on many levels, said Jessica Wahl, executive director of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, a national trade organization.

“It brought the industry together in a way that they’ve never been before, in a way that other industries are coordinated,” said Wahl, who attends the Outdoor Retailer.

Businesses and trade groups can track the economic impact of the industry and the number of jobs, she said.

“I think that puts us on the map. We are quantified like other sectors. It just changes the way people think about us, ”Wahl added. “We’re not just a fun weekend activity. ”

Daniel Brenner, Denver Post Special

Attendees walk through the Denver Convention Center during day two of the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show in Denver on Thursday, January 30, 2020.

Members of the Leisure Roundtable believe that having government-generated data has helped raise the profile of the industry and spark more interest in it among policymakers in states and states. from the federal government.

“At the federal level, there were eight outdoor recreation hearings in 2019,” said John-Michael Donahue, spokesperson for the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

Several members of Congress attended a recent industry reception on Capitol Hill. Donahue said 130 lawmakers were part of the Congressional boating caucus.

The aim is to transform the economic weight of the industry into funding and policies to help support and develop outdoor recreation.

“One of our big problems is the backlog of maintenance on national lands and waters: $ 12 billion for parks and $ 19 billion for all public lands,” said Monika Geraci, of the RV Industry Association.

The roundtable also focuses on the impacts of outdoor recreation on rural economies. Members work with federal agencies, including the US Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, to help communities who want to enjoy more outdoor recreation. The economics of recreation for rural communities assistance program was born from an executive decree on the promotion of agriculture and rural prosperity.

Glenwood Sources was among the top 10 communities chosen for help in developing plans and strategies to develop their economy through outdoor recreation.

Most recreation takes place in rural areas, Wahl said. The industry wants to take a more focused approach and partner with communities to help shape the kind of outdoor recreation economy they want, she said.

Interest seems to be high. Wahl said 170 communities across the country have requested the first round of aid.

Daniel Brenner, Denver Post Special

People enter day two of the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show at the Denver Convention Center on Thursday, January 30, 2020.

Another priority for the industry is establishing outdoor recreation industry offices in all 50 states. To date, 17 states, including Colorado, have offices dedicated to the promotion and defense of the industry. Wahl said she believes three or four more will join the ranks this year.

It’s important to have advocates at the state level to examine the impacts of decisions on the outdoor recreation industry, Wahl said.

“We don’t feel like the outdoor industry fits perfectly into any of the firm-level offices,” Wahl said. “We need someone to break down the silos. If you’re talking about a huge infrastructure bill or what you’re going to do for growth in Denver, you need someone to raise their hand and ask, “What does this mean for recreation? ”

And a priority that never changes is to maintain and expand access to outdoor recreation areas. Geraci said that as participation in outdoor recreation increases, the industry knows the importance of striking a balance between ensuring access and responsible management.

“It is essential for any industry that public lands are maintained and conserved so that there is a place to go for our outdoor enthusiasts,” said Geraci. “If there is no room for our people to recreate themselves, then our industries will disappear. ”

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