On Wednesday, representatives from the Outdoor Industry Association went to Washington, D.C. to tell members of Congress the outdoor industry isn’t just about play.
“Outdoor recreation generates more than just play money,” I Ling Thompson, vice president of communications for OIA, told SNEWS. “It brings in real dollars — Americans [have been] spending $646 billion,” a year since 2006.
In fact, the most recent Outdoor Recreation Economy Report showed that Americans spent more on outdoor recreation in 2011 than they did on cars and prescription drugs. Plus, the industry continued to grow, albeit modestly (3 percent each year since 2006), during the recession while other industries suffered.
On Wednesday, Thompson and others from the OIA briefed Senator Mark Udall (D-CO); Representative Charles Bass (R-NH); officials from the White House, Department of the Interior, Department of Commerce and Small Business Administration; and members of the media on the report. Joining Thompson were: Will Manzer, CEO of Eastern Mountain Sports; Dusty McCoy, chairman and CEO of Brunswick Corp.; and Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates, the firm that conducted the research. All sought to communicate that outdoor recreation is big business that creates jobs and supports America's economy.
“Our hope in releasing this report is that it brings the economic impact of our industry into focus for policy makers and shows them once and for all that outdoor recreation is on par with other industries," Thompson said.
According to the report, from 2006 to 2011 the outdoor recreation industry directly created 6.1 million American jobs, generated $646 billion in consumer spending each year, generated $39.9 billion in federal tax revenue and $39.7 billion in state and local tax revenue.
“Overall we found the report to really validate what we’ve known,” Thompson said. “We except that as we begin sharing the news of the industry and the economic impact of the industry, that policy makers will listen and pay attention to [its] needs.”
Policy makers need to support outdoor recreation as they do other businesses, like the automobile and prescription drug industries, Thompson said, so it can continue to boost the economy.
OIA’s president and CEO, Frank Hugelmeyer, said in a news release that when policy makers offer more support to the economy-boosting industry, it’s a “win-win scenario.”
“In this country today, we’re battling an economic recession, a healthcare crisis, and we’re trying to create safe and sustainable places for families to live,” he said in the release. “The outdoor industry provides solutions for all of this. It’s time that we tell this story to protect our industry, its jobs and our customers.”
That story might be more interesting to lawmakers now.
“As a horizontal industry in a vertical nation, outdoor recreation is often overlooked,” Manzer said in an news release. “However, outdoor recreation directly fuels major sectors of the American economy like manufacturing, hospitality and transportation. Just like any other sector of the U.S. economy, outdoor recreation needs support to continue to thrive.”