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History & Accomplishments

The Origins and Leadership of Outdoor Industry Association

Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) is a trade association born out of the industry’s desire to be individually recognized as a business community of strength.  As this new “active outdoor lifestyle” tradeshow grew, it was more and more evident that this was a group without a trade association to represent it. The initial formation meetings for the association (then called Outdoor Recreation Coalition of America, or ORCA) occurred in the late 1980s, but the association was finally incorporated in 1989 and received its 501(c)(6) non-profit status in 1992.


The original founders (Adventure 16, Backwoods, Brookwood Companies, DuPont, Eastern Mountain Sports, Elephant’s Perch, JanSport, Patagonia, Rainier Mountaineering, Inc., Recreational Equipment Inc., Sierra Designs, Summit Sports, The North Face, and Wild Country) conceived of an organization that was inclusive and far more than just a manufacturers association. Thus, the word “coalition” was included in the original name to emphasize the importance of a complete spectrum of members in the industry, ranging from manufacturers and sales representatives to retailers and suppliers. This strategic decision represents the recognition that an inclusive membership was essential, and the original agendas of building participation in outdoor recreation and reducing liability were too large to be contained within the numerous smaller segments of the industry.


As with most budding associations, OIA operations were initially driven through volunteer efforts. The Outdoor Retailer tradeshow supplied the first significant source of consistent annual funding for the association. From this funding and the growing membership dues, the first staff and programs emerged.


Today, more than 30 years later, OIA continues to serve as the trusted convenor, resource, and voice of the outdoor industry. OIA unites and serves manufacturers, suppliers, sales representatives, and retailer members through its focus on trade and recreation policy, sustainable business innovation, and outdoor participation. The association provides its members with insights, advocacy, and opportunities for action that support the long-term success of outdoor businesses and ensure the outdoor experience for all.

1989 -1996

  • Incorporated and formed the association (originally as Outdoor Recreation Coalition of America) and received official non-profit, 501(c)(6) status
  • Formed a partnership with the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association’s (SGMA) Washington Office and the SGMA Outdoor Products Council. SGMA provided significant funding for numerous projects, including all of ORCA’s publications and the new State of the Industry Report
  • Started the Climb Smart consumer risk awareness program with posters, public service announcements, stickers, and regional events
  • Entered into an exclusive endorsement agreement with Outdoor Retailer
  • Held the National Summit on Outdoor Recreation, the industry’s introduction to Washington, D.C.
  • Specialty Groups Form and association begins distribution of standards for climbing walls
  • Introduced the Climbing Gym Association (CGA)
  • Introduced the Climbing Wall Industry Group (CWIG) and CWIG
  • Helped form Leave No Trace, Inc., with a generous grant and in-kind support

1996 – 2001

  • Led the movement to oppose and defeat the proposed Backpack Tax
  • Completed the industry’s first Retail Distribution Study
  • Released the first edition of the Accepted Industry Practices handbook, a compilation of gym operating procedures
  • Helped form Americans for Our Heritage and Recreation, a coalition of conservation and recreation groups that support full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)
  • Released the first Climbing Gym Market Data Report
  • Held the strategic planning session that refocused ORCA as a trade association
  • Released the first annual Outdoor Recreation Participation Study
  • Formed the Tornado Emergency Relief Fund and raised over $100,000 to support victims and businesses struck by the tornado during Outdoor Retailer
  • Launched the support of the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), part of the Conservation & Reinvestment Act (CARA) bill
  • Frank Hugelmeyer appointed Executive Director (April 2000)
  • Formed the Outdoor Industry Foundation, a 501(c)(3) to house Pew grant and future youth outreach initiatives
  • Received a $1 million grant from the Pew Charitable Trust to help lead the fight to protect America’s roadless areas
  • The revamped WebNews receives the national 2000 ASAE Gold Circle Award for association marketing excellence

2001 – 2005

  • Changed name to Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) and completed repositioning of organization as a focused trade association
  • OIA chairs the national coalition of organizations focused on ensuring the permanent funding of LWCF through the Conservation and Recreation Act (CARA)
  • Launched the Friend of the Outdoor Industry Award for elected officials who demonstrate support for the industry
  • Realized the passage of CARA into law and the initial full funding of the $12 billion CARA legislation
  • Received initial seed grant from REI to begin an industry-wide youth outreach initiative within the Foundation
  • OIA’s State of the Industry Report received the 2001 ASAE Gold Circle Award for best annual report from an association
  • Launched the Roadless Postcard Campaign to help protect America’s last remaining roadless areas, and delivered over 10,000 comments to the administration
  • Challenged Utah Governor Mike Leavitt and his legal settlement with the Department of Interior that established how BLM lands were managed at a national level
  • Provided initial support to the Outdoor Industry Women’s Coalition (OIWC) with co-location, leadership assistance, and a generous foundational grant   
  • Provided launch and separation grants to CGA and CWIG in 2003
  • Hosted the 1st annual OIA Capitol Summit lobby event in Washington, D.C.
  • Launched the inaugural Outdoor Industry Breakfast attracting 500 attendees
  • Launched OIA education seminars at Outdoor Retailer on retail management, B2B, fair labor and marketing
  • Produced Exploring the Active Lifestyle and Participants with Potential benchmark consumer outreach research that identified how to get Americans active and which activities provided a gateway to the lifestyle (Harris Interactive and Yankelovich)
  • Launched and sponsored Get Fit with US Event with Secretary of Interior Gale Norton, Administration and Federal Agencies officials, and introduced the concept to the USFS, BLM and President’s Council on Physical Fitness

2005 – 2009

  • Launched the first-ever industry-wide international outdoor products trade initiatives, successfully defeated a petition to place safeguards on performance outerwear jackets and pants, and reduced performance footwear duties by 27.5 percent
  • In cooperation with a broad coalition of partners, successfully lobbied for the Recreation Trails Program in the 2005 Transportation Bill which increased funding from $250 million over the previous five years to $370 million for the next five, providing dollars for creating and improving trails in all 50 states
  • Released the first-ever Fair Labor Tool Kit and B2B standards for the industry
  • Hosted the first ever Eco Index Forum to develop green and sustainable outdoor product development and labeling standards
  • Launched the following successful youth outreach programs and tools to the industry:
    • Getting Women Active Toolkit for the Trade
    • Getting Youth Active Toolkit for the Trade
    • The Participation Study and Next Generation of Outdoor Participants
    • Hispanic Community and Outdoor Recreation
    • OIF website
    • Teens Outside, the Great American Backyard Campout and Outdoor Idols
  • Completed a 15-year multi-million-dollar strategic partnership sponsor agreement with Nielsen Expositions that doubled the annual investment in industry programs and expanded member input and benefits at the tradeshows
  • Launched the first-ever performance apparel trade bill designed to reduce import duties and invest in sustainable manufacturing techniques
  • In partnership with Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne and the National Parks Conservation Association, successfully passed the $200 million Centennial Initiative designed to prepare the National Parks for the next 100 years
  • Launched expanded Outdoor University retail training seminars at Outdoor Retailer, regional sale rep trade shows and the Outdoor Industry Rendezvous
  • Expanded the Teens Outside programs to 28 locations, introducing over 3000 kids to new outdoor sports adventures
  • Briefed the Republican and Democratic presidential campaigns on outdoor industry policy interests regarding recreation appropriations and international trade
  • Formed the OIA Political Action Committee

2009 – 2013

  • Partnered with AAFA to introduce the Affordable Footwear Act to significantly reduce duties on technical outdoor footwear
  • Established the OIA Internet Counterfeit Task Force to support outdoor industry businesses in fighting the growing threat of online counterfeits and rogue websites
  • Formed the Sustainability & Fair Labor Advisory Council and the International Trade Advisory Council
    • Launched quarterly trade visits to Capitol Hill
    • Completed the development of the first global Eco Index for apparel, footwear, and equipment
    • Developed guidelines and metrics for water, waste, and energy
    • Launched the packaging guidelines
  • Positioned OIA as a major partner with the President’s Green Cabinet and America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, and partnered with Outdoor Alliance to host America’s Great Outdoors Homegrown Listening Sessions to focus on recreation and submitted a report to the Obama administration
  • Outdoor University launched, offering more than 30 webinars and training more than 1500 retail and manufacturer executives
  • Continued expansion of OIA Political Action Committee (OIAPAC) with a 92-percent success rate in the 2010 elections
  • Developed and launched VantagePoint, the official new point-of-sale research for the outdoor industry which provided the first near real-time, full-market view of all channels of distribution (sales data was available monthly and included tracking of nine channels and nearly 10,000 retail doors)
  • Launched Outdoor Nation to engage youth in outdoor recreation, kicked off Youth Summit with 500 youth delegates in New York City, and expanded the program the following year with a five-city tour
  • U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar speaks to more than 750 industry leaders at the 2010 OIA-hosted Outdoor Retailer Summer Market Industry Breakfast
  • OIA joined Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP) to show industry support for comprehensive climate change legislation
  • Eco-Index named one of the “Ten Most Hopeful Green Business Stories of 2010” by; partnerships established with European Outdoor Group (EOG) and Sustainable Apparel Coalition to continue the development, participation, and adoption of the tool

2013 – 2017

  • Established a full-time D.C.-based office for Government Affairs
  • Celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the OIA Sustainability Working Group (SWG), an industry collaboration developed to ensure and continually improve the high standards of environmental and social responsibility that consumers have come to expect of the outdoor industry.
  • The Sustainability Working Group launched new tools for chemicals management, materials traceability and equipment indexing that companies can use to reduce brand exposure and measure and improve the sustainability of their products
  • The Outdoor Foundation exceeded $2 million in annual revenue for the first time and launched the Outsider’s Ball—an industry fundraising event that attracted more than 1,000 industry leaders to the inaugural gala
  • Launched the Made in America working group to facilitate discussion about how outdoor industry companies can manufacture or source more products and/or components domestically
  • Secured significant changes to the short supply list under consideration in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations to ensure outdoor products receive maximum benefits in the pending Pacific Rim trade agreement
  • Provided more than 100 educational sessions to more than 5,000 industry executives through OIA’s education platforms including online offerings, in-person conferences, and Outdoor Retailer seminars through the Outdoor University programs
  • Received a National Leadership Award from the Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals (SORP) Award as recognition for OIA’s impact on outdoor recreation and the outdoor recreation profession
  • Frank Hugelmeyer resigned as president, and Steve Barker, founder and former CEO of Eagle Creek, appointed as interim executive director
  • Introduced OIA ConsumerVue, a digital online research tool that showcases findings from a first-of-its-kind, industry-level consumer segmentation study that looks into the world of outdoor through the eyes of the consumer
  • Appointed Amy Roberts as the new executive director of OIA
  • Selected 22 aspiring leaders as the first class of the Skip Yowell Future Leadership Academy
  • In celebration of the National Parks Centennial, OIA launched #Parks4Kids in partnership with the Outdoor Foundation to get every 4th grader to a park
  • Reached over 60 colleges and got over 25,000 young people outside through the Outdoor Foundation’s Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge
  • MOU with Sustainable Apparel Coalition(SAC) announced providing shared objectives and goals around HIGG Index adoption, an environmental and social impact tool that is free to all members
  • Over 50 outdoor companies from Brooks Sports to Yakima signed a public commitment statement declaring their intention to use the Higg Index as the primary means to measure and communicate supply chain performance.
  • The bipartisan Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact (REC) Act was signed into law calling for the federal government to annually measure the outdoor recreation economy and the industry’s contribution to our nation’s GDP

2017 – present

  • Launched the Together We Are a Force campaign showcasing the collaborative spirit of the industry by featuring outdoor industry professionals who have come together, even if competitors, to do great things
  • Released The Outdoor Recreation Economy report, the largest and most comprehensive research of its kind, that reported the outdoor recreation economy generates $887 billion in consumer spending annually, sustains 7.6 million American jobs and generates $65.3 billion in federal tax revenue and $59.2 billion in state and local tax revenue each year
  • Launched the OIA Advocacy Center, giving members and constituents key information, access to their congressional elected officials, and actions they can take to influence change
  • Led the March for Public Lands that rallied over 3,000 outdoor industry professionals in front of the Utah State Capitol to show support for protecting public lands
  • Kicked off the Skip Yowell Future Leadership Academy, a six-month immersive experience for the next generation of outdoor industry leaders.
  • In collaboration with POW and Mountainfilm, hosted the inaugural Outdoor Industry Climate Leadership Summit to engage the outdoor industry voice in the crucial fight against climate change
  • Led executives from more than 350 outdoor businesses to jointly submit a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke asking him to protect national monuments and public lands that are critical infrastructure for outdoor businesses
  • Released first-ever congressional-level Outdoor Recreation Economy reports for all 435 congressional districts
  • Lise Aangeenbrug, veteran conservation champion, named the Outdoor Foundation’s new executive director
  • Released the State of Sustainability in the Outdoor Industry report surveying 120 individual small, midsize, and large companies in the outdoor industry to quantify the outdoor industry’s sustainability impact.
  • VF Foundation, Patagonia, and Thule kicked off a multimillion-dollar funding effort for the Outdoor Foundation to get more kids and families outside (less than a year later, REI and Wolverine Worldwide joined the founding donors to support the initiative)
  • Released first-ever OIA Congressional Scorecard as a part of the Vote the Outdoors program, highlighting congressional voting records on public lands, climate change, and trade issues
  • Created the 501(c)4 organization Vote the Outdoors to support the election of outdoorists to Congress and governorships across the country
  • Outdoor Foundation launched Thrive Outside Community Initiative, which awards multi-year, capacity-building grants to diverse communities to build and strengthen networks that provide children and families with repeat and reinforcing experiences in the outdoors. This community-led initiative is built with trusted local and national partners and is supported by three years of funding.
  • Held successful Sustainability Bootcamps across the country to help support small to medium-sized outdoor industry organizations to build and grow their sustainability strategies
  • Released the first comprehensive economic report showing that outdoor companies and consumers paid an extra $1.1 billion due to new punitive Trump administration tariffs on Chinese imported goods
  • Through state-level lobbying efforts and industry coalition building, supported the creation of offices or task forces of outdoor recreation in 15 states
  • OIA, REI, and Outdoor Recreation Roundtable joined together to support the creation of the Outdoor Recreation Learning Network to help governors and their staff explore strategies to leverage their unique natural, cultural and historical resources and help promote economic, social, and environmental benefits

The OIA Legacy

There are so many board members and other volunteers who have selflessly given their time over the years. OIA has their vision and leadership to thank for the growth and success of the association and industry. The following industry leaders have served as association chairpersons:


1989 to 1993

Board Chairs: Konnie Self, A16; and Denise Friend, REI (exact years unknown)


1993 to 1994

Board Chair: Dick Holcombe, Woolrich


1994 to 1996

Board Chair: Steve Pfeiffer, President, Mountain Equipment, Inc. (MEI)


1996 to 1999

Board Chair: Dunham Gooding, President, American Alpine Institute


1999 to 2001

Board Chair: Sally McCoy, President, Sierra Designs


2001 to 2003

Board Chair: Steve Barker, President, Eagle Creek


2003 to 2005

Board Chair: Lee Fromson, President, Cascade Designs


2005 to 2007

Board Chair: Kim Coupounas, CEO, GoLite


2007 to 2009

Board Chair: Mike Wallenfels, President, Mountain Hardwear


2009 to 2011

Board Chair: Dan Templin, CFO, VF Outdoors


2011 to 2013

Board Chair: Will Manzer, CEO, Eastern Mountain Sports


2013 to 2015

Board Chair: Jennifer Mull, CEO, Backwoods


2015 to 2017

Board Chair: Gordon Seabury, CEO, Toad&Co


2017 to 2019

Board Chair: Travis Campbell, GM Americas, The North Face


2019 to 2021

Board Chair: Nora Stowell, Fabric Sales and Marketing Divisional Leader, W.L. Gore & Associates


2021 to present

Board Chair: Phyllis Grove, Helen of Troy, SVP Marketing (Hydro Flask and OXO)


We’re always looking to improve and provide meaningful education for professionals in ther outdoor indsutry. Let us know how we’re doing.