(MONTPELIER, VERMONT) -- Last Wednesday, more than 40 members of the Vermont Outdoor Industry gathered at the Vermont State House, presenting a foundation of economic data and calling for specific actions to help protect and grow this diverse economic sector.
Attended by a group of more than 40 equipment manufacturers, publishers, retailers, outfitters and marketers, the event and press conference was hosted by Pale Morning Media (Waitsfield), Mammut USA (Williston), Outdoor Gear Exchange (Burlington) and Height of Lands Publications (Jeffersonville). Attendees included representatives from Rome Snowboards, Onion River Sports, Turtle Fur, Julbo Eyewear, Press Forward PR, Petra Cliffs, Pinnacle Outdoor Group and others.
“At the national level of the Outdoor Industry, Vermont brands truly stand out with leaders in every category – gear makers, retailers, outfitters, publishers – yet here in Vermont the group remains isolated in silos. Retailers over here, suppliers over there, skiers over here, hikers over there,” said Drew Simmons, president/founder of Pale Morning Media and one of the event organizers. “Nationally, the places where the Outdoor Industry is succeeding the most are the places where those walls and silos have come down, and the Outdoor Industry is recognized as the essential multifaceted economic sector that it is.”
The event included a presentation of current statistics regarding the Outdoor Industry, the Outdoor Recreation Economy, and the Outdoor Consumer, as provided by the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA).
The group called for an Outdoor Industry job count within the State of Vermont, modeled after the federal bill recently proposed by Congressman Peter Welch.
The group also requested the creation of an economic focused Outdoor Recreation Director role within the State administration – tasked with promoting and supporting the growth of all Vermont businesses that provide services and products in the Outdoor Recreation Industry as well as being the central point of support at the state level for the diverse constituents, businesses, communities and groups that rely on the continued health of the Outdoor Recreation Industry in Vermont.
“In the past, the Outdoor Industry has been perceived as a bunch of unrelated communities: anglers and skiers, climbers and paddlers. But in the future, to embrace and grow this economic segment, it’s important to see it as the multi-faceted economic driver that it is,” said Bill Supple of Mammut, one of the event organizers. “The first step is to fully understand the size and scope of the Outdoor Industry as an economic sector in Vermont. The second step is dedicating a point person to this sector, to embrace it and bring it together, to retain and grow businesses in the sector, and to help it continue to be a key part of the Vermont brand.
According to OIA,142.6 million Americans participated in at least one outdoor activity within the last year for a total of 12.1 billion outdoor outings. In Vermont, at least 74% of Vermonters are outdoor consumers who participate in outdoor recreation each year.
Other statistics cited at the event included a summary of the Outdoor Recreation Economy in Vermont, which includes $39.7 billion in state and local tax revenue, $2.5 billion in consumer spending, 34,000 direct Vermont jobs, $753 million in wages and salaries and $176 million in state and local tax revenue.
“We’re not lobbyists. We’re not legislators. We’re business owners. And we see the rising prominence of the Outdoor Industry on a national level, every day," added Simmons. "The Outdoor Industry is a non-partisan, broad-based economic driver. It’s geographically agnostic for the most part – as it is comprised of multiple and numerous activity-based communities … some small, some large, some that you’ve probably never heard of. But when they’re brought together, when they’re embraced as a whole, the Outdoor Industry has the potential to be a major economic driver for the entire State of Vermont.”
Just a few somewhat outdoorsy suggestions from your friends at Pale Morning Media.
There’s only one table left in the bar. Typical. And it’s right in front of the band who just started and seems pretty damn loud. So you decide to just hang near the back and sip your beer in your ski boots. Maybe something will open up.
It was a big day out there. One of the biggest of the year, actually. Maybe even all time. No lunch breaks for anybody today, no downshifting, no rest breaks, and no need. Ropes were dropping, lines were sparking off in every direction, and all the favorites were paid a respectful visit: the 19th, Octopus’ Garden and even The Church. As with all great days, you spent most of in a tiny group, often alone, not seeing much of a crowd until … well … now.
You see a friend at the end of the bar. You’ve known him for years. Longer, actually. Half-full beer in hand, he’s giving a detailed blow by blow of his epic day. How it started before dawn. How he got the invite for an early tram. How he ducked a rope at just the right time and was the second person up the headwall. How he got it all fresh and got it all first.
It’s undoubtedly true of course. There’s no question in your mind that everything happened just as he said. It was a great day, after all, and he summed it up very well. He was standing in just the right spot at the end of the bar, where plenty of folks could hear him. He had a loud voice, deep and confident and easy to understand. And he was dutiful to the details: the snow, the slopes, the rollers and the rocks. But the longer he talks, the more you realize that you have little interest in hearing his story.
You wobble away to a spot behind the fireplace where you come across another group of skiers you know. In truth, they look exactly like the crowd you left behind at the end of the bar: same gear, same flushed cheeks, same goggle lines and same end-of-the-day smiles.
They see you, invite you over and ask you how your day was. They laugh at your story about the moose. And then they start into stories of their own, each one unique and unexpected, each one building on the one before it, each one making you that much more excited for what tomorrow might bring.
And after several hours of storytelling … you’re still listening.