The outdoor recreation economy is choosing Colorado

by barbara platts

Sunday, Nov. 11, wrapped up the third and final Outdoor Retailer show of the year in Denver. This trade show, which is the biggest of its kind in North America, moved to Denver at the beginning of 2018 from Salt Lake City.

When news came out in the summer of 2017 that this move was happening, it was a big deal, not only in Colorado but on a national level. Michael Hancock, the mayor of Denver, said this about the trade show’s move to the Centennial State: “What this announcement proves is that Denver and the state of Colorado is indeed a global international player when it comes to outdoor recreational opportunities.”

Now, 16 months later, Outdoor Retailer is fully at home here, and our outdoor economy isn’t only alive and well, it’s growing.

The words “outdoor” and “economy” may not seem like they naturally fit together. The visual of business men and women rushing around on Wall Street, juxtaposed by families ice skating on Maroon Lake in front of the Bells just doesn’t make much sense. However, every activity we partake in outdoors is a part of the economy, from the gear and clothes we purchase, to the lift tickets we invest in, to anyone who may help us with our adventures along the way. At least, that’s how the Bureau of Economic Analysis sees it. The government agency released its first-ever report this year, which measures the economic influence of outdoor recreation in the country.

The BEA found that the outdoor recreation economy in 2016 accounted for 2.2. percent, or $412 billion, of current-dollar gross domestic product (GDP). It did so well, in fact, that it even grew faster that year than the overall economy did.

When we zoom in on the outdoor economy in our state, it’s clear that it makes a big impact. According to a state report released a couple of weeks ago, the industry contributed $62.5 billion in 2017 and now supports nearly 511,111 jobs statewide.

“This puts it as one of the top economic drivers of our economy,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said at the unveiling of the report, accounting for 10 percent of the state’s GDP.

From the looks of it, the outdoor economy in Colorado will only continue to grow from here. In August the VF Corporation, which is one of the largest companies in the industry, announced it will move its headquarters to Colorado, with brands like The North Face, Smartwool and Altra, to name a few, making Denver their new home next spring. This will add around 800 jobs to the area.

One of the main reasons both Outdoor Retailer and VF Corporation chose Colorado as their new home is because of the state’s support for the outdoor economy, which comes from both sides of the aisle. It will be exciting to see how this support continues to bring more outdoor-related companies to Colorado. Hopefully the work being done in our state will also show the rest of the country the successes that can be achieved when we put the outdoors first.

Barbara Platts is proud to she gets to call Colorado home. Reach her at or on Twitter @BarbaraPlatts.

Aspen Times Weekly

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