Luis Benitez is leaving his leadership post at the country's second-ever outdoor recreation office in Colorado for VF Corporation, the biggest company he helped lure to the state during his four years.
Benitez will will become VP of government relations and global impact for VF, a position created just for him by the parent company of The North Face and Smartwool. The corporation is relocating headquarters from North Carolina to Denver this year and bringing 800 executive-level jobs.
His last day as director of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office is March 22.
"Four years ago when I accepted this job and moved down to Denver from the mountains... I had no idea how many extraordinary things we would accomplish together," Benitez wrote in an emailed statement. "Beyond the success in business recruitment and retention we have endeavored to help our community and our industry find a voice, a voice that has begun to shape the definition of not only who we are as a culture, but also what we stand for as a community."
Anita Graham, vice president and chief human resources officer at VF, said they're pleased to welcome Benitez into the family to lead philanthropy. "His blend of government and non-profit experience, along with his passion for the outdoors and our industry, make him ideally suited for this role overseeing government relations and the VF Foundation," she said. "With a focus on collaboration and partnership, Luis will lead strategies that help us further engage with a broad base of stakeholders to advance our business interests as well as our Purpose-led commitments for the betterment of people and our planet.”
Colorado was second after Utah to create an office dedicated to promoting outdoor recreation and capitalizing on its economy. Since Benitez was appointed in 2015, six other states have established official government offices, three have created task forces, and many are on the cusp of following suit. SNEWS is keeping an eye on New Mexico and California.
Benitez's work as director of Colorado Outdoor Industry Recreation Office helped more than double the state's outdoor economy from $28 to $62.5 billion, according to a government report. He, along with former governor, current presidential candidate John Hickenlooper, was instrumental in bringing Outdoor Retailer to Denver from Utah.
At the last show in January, the 45-year-old mountaineer announced the Confluence of States, a coalition of eight signatories that support a set of shared political principles called the Confluence Accords. More states are slated to sign on in 2019, he said.
While Benitez was often seen in a tie, his passion is in the mountains. He has climbed Everest six times and tagged the Seven Summits a combined 32 times. Before serving as a Town of Eagle trustee, Benitez worked at Vail Resorts and as a mountain guide.
"In a former lifetime as both an Outward Bound instructor and a mountain guide, the saying went that your ultimate job is to put yourself out of a job, ensuring that the people that you are leading have the skills and the acumen to thrive without you," he wrote. "I feel like we have reached that place together, and the time has come for me to step aside.
Nathan Fey will step up from deputy director to fill Benitez's role in the interim. A national search is underway to find his replacement.
Benitez ended his email by encouraging recipients to continue to share ideas. "There is still much work to do, as we continue to focus on diversity and inclusivity within our industry, discover new modalities of 'pay to play' to take care of our most treasured natural resources, and always above all else continue to get the next generation outside, educated, and engaged," he wrote.