Oregon legislators are considering opening an outdoor recreation office

Oregon businesses want an outdoor recreation office. And of course, they want Outdoor Retailer, too.
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Mt. Hood

Oregon's iconic Mt. Hood. // Photo: Pixabay

Oregon could be well on its way to opening an outdoor recreation office similar to those established in Colorado, Utah, and Washington.

The Oregon state legislature has proposed a bill to create the office, with four sponsors in the state House. The House Committee on Economic Development and Trade will discuss the bill in a work session on Monday.

“We’re pretty darn excited about this,” said Van Schoessler, sales manager for Stanley Outdoor and president of the Oregon Outdoor Alliance. He mentioned some of his state’s more impressive facts and figures: $12.8 billion in annual consumer spending on outdoor recreation, 141,000 jobs supported by the industry, and $955 million in state and local tax revenue.

“We’re not sure where the top is,” Schoessler said.

If the bill passes, Oregon would be the fourth state to establish a specific office for outdoor recreation that focuses on economic development and issues important to the industry. Utah was the first, Colorado came second, and Washington was the most recent state to establish an office. New Mexico and California have also made progress on similar legislation.

If Oregon succeeds, businesses around the state will be able to act more cohesively on land management and conservation issues, for example, and their voices will be much louder together than separately, said Tyler LaMotte, VP of global brand marketing for KEEN. When the Outdoor REC Act passed the House and Senate last year, it was a milestone for the industry, he said. Achieving that kind of power and recognition at the state level would be a similar boon for Oregon companies.

If the state legislature chooses to establish the office, one of the new director’s responsibilities will be handling the bid for Outdoor Retailer. Oregon is one of many states that wants the show, along with the tens of millions of dollars in consumer spending that’s likely to come along with it.

LaMotte and people from other outdoor industry businesses have been working with the Portland Development Commission to figure out how to attract the show.

“Portland would be a great future home for Outdoor Retailer. Think about what we have in terms of access,” he said: the coast, a mountain range with the iconic Mt. Hood, and massive, deep forests. Plus, aside from the tens of millions of dollars the show could bring to Oregon—an economic driver that would be an incredible opportunity for local businesses—it would give companies like KEEN the opportunity to connect with their dealers in a new way.

“It gives us the opportunity for a lot of other people to experience our home, Portland, which we love, of course, and it gives us opportunities for dealer engagement with our headquarters,” LaMotte said. “There’s a whole big awareness benefit for our brands, [for the show] to be able to come to the heart of where we are.”

Even though proponents of Oregon’s outdoor rec office bill have pointed to states that have created these divisions as models for success, it could be tricky to justify this year. The state has to make up for $1.6 billion in budget shortfalls over the next two years, according to the Portland Business Journal.

But with a potential $45 million on the line from Outdoor Retailer attendees? That office could pretty quickly pay for itself.

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KEEN’s Live Monumental campaign is one example of the industry-conservation interface. Raising awareness of the economic power of the outdoors can lead to conservation and public access wins. Photo: Courtesy of KEEN

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