December 20, 2016 – GJEP executive director Kristi Pollard penned an op-ed about the new outdoor recreation act and its importance to rural economies like ours. Here is the full story, which ran in The Daily Sentinel and on Colorado Biz magazine’s website:
The outdoor industry received an early Christmas present this year that Colorado should be celebrating. Last week, Senator Cory Gardner’s bipartisan Outdoor Recreation and Jobs Economic Impact Act was signed into law by President Obama. The statute requires the Bureau of Economic Analysis to calculate the economic impact of the outdoor recreation industry and requires the Commerce Department to provide Congress with a full evaluation of the outdoor recreation industry’s role in the broader economy. This is overdue recognition of a U.S. industry sector that is estimated to contribute $646 billion per year to the U.S. economy with 6.1 million U.S. jobs.
This issue is particularly important to Colorado and areas of our state beyond the Denver metro. Colorado has firmly established itself as a leader in the outdoor industry sector and rural areas, like Grand Junction, are driving this growth to new heights. This economic growth is critical to areas of the state that are recovering much slower than the Front Range. While the Denver Metro area experienced a 4% increase in real GDP last year, many areas of our state, including Grand Junction, actually experienced a real GDP decline last year. Similarly, while the unemployment rate in the Denver metro area last year was 2.9%, that number is much higher in other key economic regions of our state: Grand Junction was 4.5%; and Pueblo was 4.7%.
This uneven economic recovery highlights why the Outdoor Recreation and Jobs Economic Impact Act is so important for all of Colorado. Senator Gardner sponsored the legislation because it extends one of Colorado’s strongest economic drivers to areas beyond the Front Range. The economic engine for so many parts of our state is tourism. Tourists visit all parts of Colorado to explore the outdoors and enjoy our vast network of public lands. This has created Colorado’s significant outdoor industry and less populated areas of the state especially rely on this economic engine.
To illustrate how important this business sector is to areas beyond Denver and the Front Range, the Grand Junction Economic Partnership has dozens of examples of outdoor industry companies thriving in Colorado’s Grand Valley such as:
- Colorado Clear is a Palisade company that uses proprietary technology to create water bottles that are fully biodegradable and recyclable, a first in the market. The company caters to outdoor recreationists with its innovative design and high quality spring water from the Grand Mesa’s Rapid Creek. Colorado Clear is a participant of the state’s Rural Jump Start Program and is expected to create 37 new jobs by 2020.
- Bonsai Design is a Grand Junction company that develops outdoor aerial adventure parks throughout North America. Bonsai Design is a leader in the industry, successfully completing projects at the Boys Scouts of America Summit Ridge Challenge Course, the Toledo Zoo Aerial Zoo Park and Colorado’s own Vail Resorts’ zip line and aerial adventure courses. Bonsai Design employs 39 employees.
- Leitner Poma is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of cable transport systems, including chair lifts, gondolas, trams, and other outdoor transport systems. Letiner Poma chose to locate in Grand Junction in the 1980’s based on its geographic location and has thrived in the Grand Valley, now employing 118 Coloradoans.
The Outdoor Recreation and Jobs Economic Impact Act is significant for Colorado’s economy as a whole and especially important for areas of our state needing economic stabilization. The federal law will require a key segment of Colorado’s economy finally be calculated and recognized. Colorado needs to play to its strengths, and Senator Gardner’s legislation to support the outdoor recreation industry will significantly support and grow the entire Colorado economy.
Click here to about the outdoor recreation industry in Colorado’s Grand Valley.
*Photo from placement on Cobizmag.com.