Leaders in the outdoor recreation industry across Maine came together last week to discuss the importance of the outdoor economy to the state and its future, at a forum entitled, Celebrating and Cultivating Maine’s Outdoor Recreation Economy.
Governor Janet Mills spoke specifically about the state’s commitment to furthering the outdoor economy, demonstrated by the recent signing of the Outdoor Recreation Industry Confluence Accords and the establishment of the Office of Outdoor Recreation for the state.
“Maine people and visitors have enjoyed our vast natural resources for generations. From hunting to fishing to hiking and many other activities in between, experiencing and protecting the outdoors is an integral part of our heritage, it is who we are as a people, and it is a cornerstone of our state’s economy,” said Governor Janet Mills. “By joining this partnership of states, Maine will continue to build on its strong outdoor recreation tradition to attract new businesses, encourage healthy lifestyles, create jobs, and strengthen our rural economy.”
Maine joins 12 other states and is the second state in New England, along with Vermont, to sign the Confluence Accords, committing to advance the areas of conservation and stewardship, education and workforce training, economic development and public health and wellness.
“By coming together, we are able to advance both conversation and action required to expand our industry and its many associated benefits,” said Shawn Gorman, Executive Chairman and great-grandson of L.L. Bean. “These are topics that are critical to all of us - and pledging to support these four pillars is only the beginning.”
Maine’s Outdoor Recreation Industry a National Leader
According to the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, Maine’s outdoor recreation industry makes up a larger percentage of the state’s economy than in almost any other state, ranking third only behind Hawaii and Montana. Outdoor recreation also supports more than 40 thousand jobs in Maine, accounting for 6.4% of employment. Additionally, manufacturing of outdoor recreation goods contributed $328 million to Maine’s economy in 2017, an increase of 47% in the last five years.
"New government data shows that Maine is one of the outdoor recreation leaders in the whole country, and we believe that there is even more room for growth,” said Jenny Kordick, Executive Director of Maine Outdoor Brands. “By promoting our outdoor businesses and investing in trails and other outdoor recreation infrastructure, we can further establish Maine as a national leader, create new jobs in the outdoor industry, and boost the state's economy."
Working Together to Remove Barriers
As a part of the event, several leaders from the state’s non-profit, private and public sectors participated in a panel moderated by Patricia Rojas-Ungar, Vice President of the Outdoor Industry Association. The discussion centered on how Maine is uniquely positioned to be a leader in the outdoor recreation space and what the state brings to the national effort to grow the outdoor recreation economy.
Panelist included: Maria Povec, Senior Policy Analyst, Maine Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future; John Judge, President and CEO, Appalachian Mountain Club; Russell Walters, President, Northern Outdoors and Dr. Tory Rogers, Medical Director, Let’s Go, MaineHealth.
One of the primary themes to emerge from the discussion was how the various sectors can work to bring people together, making the outdoors more accessible for all.
“It’s important to think about how we bring this work to the backyard,” said Dr. Rogers. She continued by noting how many children lack the means to travel to parks and recreation areas, further highlighting the importance of “the backyard” as well as local, community efforts.
The group also discussed why Maine is uniquely positioned to be a leader in the outdoor space given the state’s large land mass, diversity of terrain and four, distinct seasons.
“There have been ongoing conversations around these topics on the West Coast for a while now,” noted Povec. “It’s great to see this energy on the east coast- particularly in Maine.”