Jun 13, 2012

Outdoor Industry, Western Governors Tout Recreation Economy

In the opening salvo of our campaign to promote the outdoor recreation economy, Outdoor Industry Association® (OIA), industry leaders, and the Western Governors’ Association (WGA) took the wraps off what off what one CEO called a “well kept secret,” releasing figures quantifying the economic impact of outdoor recreation in the West.

“We all take for granted what the outdoors means to our economy,” Gov. Christine Gregoire (D-WA) told the audience at WGA’s annual meeting last weekend. “We need to highlight the importance of outdoor recreation to the western economy.”

The new economic data is hard to ignore:

  • $256 billion in direct annual spending on outdoor recreation in the West
  • 2.3 million direct jobs
  • $31 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue

In an unprecedented collaboration across industry sectors, OIA, WGA, The Outdoor Foundation, the National Marine Manufacturers Association (an OIA member), the Motorcycle Industry Council, the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, and the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association produced a report encompassing the full spectrum of outdoor activities in the region.

Sally Jewell, CEO of REI; Dusty McCoy, chairman and CEO of Brunswick boats; Bennett Morgan of Polaris Industries; and Mike Caldwell, mayor of Ogden, Utah, attended the WGA annual meeting to give the governors a tutorial on the recreation economy. The governors took note. “The economic impact of outdoor recreation is significant and the potential is unlimited,” said Gov. Gary Herbert (R-UT) and incoming WGA chair.

This regional report and new national economic research OIA is releasing June 20 are designed to change perceptions of outdoor recreation and our industry. Too often, elected officials view the industry and the places our customer play — parks, trails, lakes, rivers and open spaces — as “nice to have” amenities rather than “must have” components of healthy economies and communities.

Today, public policy and politics are all about jobs and the economy, and OIA is working to earn a seat at the table. “We need government to recognize that the recreation economy is important to our state and local economies,” said Jewell. With the WGA report, what began as a conversation between Gov. Gregoire and Jewell has matured in to a working partnership to promote the economic benefits of outdoor recreation and protect the outdoor venues that constitute our national outdoor recreation system — including federal land and water holdings in the West.

Backed by statistics that 83 percent of boats sold in the United States are made in this country and 83 million Americans went boating in 2011, McCoy urged the governors to embrace the outdoor economy, protect natural habitats and provide the funding to ensure all Americans have quality, accessible places to get outside. “We know we are going to get a return from these investments, so let’s invest,” McCoy said.

On June 20, OIA is releasing “The Outdoor Recreation Economy,” a report detailing the national economic impact of outdoor recreation. To request a copy, email editor@outdoorindustry.org.