Step Outside And Grow The Economy

photo by C. Sherwood

The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) gets right to the point, “Outdoor recreation is an economic force.”

It’s a point well taken and one that governmental leaders, at all levels, should take to heart. It’s been reported that America’s outdoor recreation industry generates a $734-billion “gross domestic product output” while producing $887 billion in consumer spending and supporting nearly 8 million jobs.

In other words, there is a lot of biking, hiking, camping, fishing, paddling, bird watching, and other outdoor recreation going on locally, statewide, and across the United States. We’re told that nearly one-half of American citizens annually take part in an outdoor recreation activity, and that these Americans annually make more than 10 billion outdoor outings.

Recently, the 13th Annual Southern Tier Outdoors Show (www.southerntieroutdoorshow.com) at the Steuben County Fairgrounds in Bath helped highlight the range of outdoor recreation available regionally for area sportsmen and sportswomen, and families!

As a former chairman of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee and a lifelong sportsman, I have been grateful for opportunities to support the ongoing resurgence of outdoor recreation. The Legislature annually takes actions on behalf of the outdoors, not solely for the economic and environmental benefits but also because these activities offer a high quality means of exercise, healthier lifestyles, and family fun and recreation.
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Surveys by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service have shown striking facts about the nationwide economic impact — to the tune of $122 billion in revenue and millions of jobs — of the 87.5 million Americans who fish, hunt, or engage in other wildlife-related recreation. Hunting, fishing, and trapping are deeply rooted in New York’s (and our region’s) culture, experience, and tradition.

The same goes for our unmatched network of New York State parks, trails, and historic sites. In 2018, a record 74 million visitors enjoyed our state parks and historic sites. The advocacy group Parks & Trails New York (PTNY) routinely highlights the economic impact of New York’s more than 200 state parks, dozens of historic sites, more than a thousand miles of hiking trails, and over 8,000 campsites (to say nothing of numerous boat launches, beaches, swimming pools, and nature centers). For example, a recent PTNY report estimated that the  state parks and trails system supports approximately 45,000 jobs and generates upwards of $4 billion in consumer spending – which means each dollar of state investment is supporting a return of nine dollars in consumer spending.

As we work to turn around the Upstate New York economy through small business growth, a revitalization and strengthening of manufacturing, an ongoing foundation of agriculture and tourism, and in many other ways, we will be smart to keep an eye on the outdoors.

New York’s unique outdoor experiences and pastimes are sure to entice more and more spending on goods and services provided by local businesses. These expenditures support jobs, generate sales and income taxes, and spark tourism.

“This includes day trips as well as overnight trips,” the PTNY report notes, “with visitors spending money on park entrance and use fees, sporting equipment, food and drink, transportation, lodging, and other expenses. Visitor spending creates jobs and revenue not only for the park system, but also has a multiplier effect, as jobs and revenues are created in supporting industries throughout the local economy.”

It’s clear that more and more New Yorkers are getting outside for a breath of fresh air and a better view – and it keeps adding up to a stronger bottom line.

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