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Velázquez Seeks to Address Concerns of Small Businesses in Outdoor Recreation Industry

Washington, October 30, 2019

Washington, D.C.— Today, the House Small Business Committee under Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) met for a hearing centered on the issues facing small businesses in the outdoor recreation industry (ORI). ORI has become an integral part of the U.S. economy, contributing more to gross domestic product (GDP) than mining, utilities, and chemical product manufacturing. 

“With more than 146 million Americans across the nation—nearly half of the U.S. population—participating each year in activities such as hiking, fishing, skiing, rafting, and biking, outdoor recreation is among the largest and fastest-growing sectors of the U.S. economy,” said Chairwoman Velázquez. “This industry is fueled by small businesses and creates jobs in communities across the country; it’s up to us in Congress to support these small firms. This responsibility includes making sure that public lands are healthy and air and water are clean.”

ORI is one of the U.S.’s fastest-growing economic sectors. In 2017, the industry produced 427.2 billion in gross economic output and supported over 5.1 million jobs nationwide. The outdoor recreation economy grew 3.9 percent in 2017, while the overall U.S economy grew at a 2.4% rate. Outdoor recreation and tourism also supports communities across the country by generating hundreds of billions in federal, state, and local tax revenue every year. ORI has strong ties to various vital economic sectors, including manufacturing, retail, transportation, and tourism. 

Despite the significant growth that ORI has experienced, the industry is currently facing several pressing threats. In recent years, many small firms in the sector have identified trade conflicts, national infrastructure, and the treatment of public lands as potential inhibitors to future growth. The treatment of America’s infrastructure and public lands system is particularly important for many of these businesses. Public lands and waters serve as the foundation of the outdoor recreation economy. Without these public goods, the industry’s wellbeing is jeopardized.  

During the hearing, members examined the issues facing these small businesses and discussed ways that the federal government can ensure the continued success of this critical industry. 

“Investment in outdoor recreation infrastructure makes economic sense,” said Ray Rasker, Ph.D., Executive Director at Headwaters Economics in Bozeman, MT. “More than 140 economic studies document the many ways that hiking and biking trails, picnic areas, fishing access sites, and other infrastructure contribute to local economies. These studies document how outdoor recreation creates jobs, generates taxes, raises property values, and improves public health. Very often the people who benefit the most are the owners of small businesses.”

“Without clean waters and abundant fish populations, the recreational fishing industry simply cannot survive,” said Frank-Paul Anthony King, President, and CEO of Temple Fork Outfitters in Dallas, TX. “No one wants to fish in dirty, polluted waters where the fish populations have been depleted. Critical to small business in this segment of the outdoor recreation industry, is that anglers can enjoy healthy aquatic systems with abundant fisheries.”

“The health of our ecosystems relies on adequate and organized public access and infrastructure by way of trails, waterways and wildlife corridors,” said Lindsey Davis, Co-Founder and CEO of WYLDER in Salt Lake City, UT. “Green and blue infrastructure will not only improve visitation, but also make it possible for wildlife and watersheds to continue to thrive and recreationalists to continue building a lifelong relationship to the outdoors. Our sector will benefit tremendously from addressing the maintenance backlog on our public lands and waters.”

“We know that the economic prosperity of our nation is increasingly impacted by the growing outdoor recreation economy,” said Chairwoman Velázquez. “But the current trade war the Administration is engaged in, and lack of investment in our public lands and infrastructure are creating headwinds for the industry. I look forward to working with Members on both sides of the aisle to support this part of the economy and addressing some of the challenges they face. ”

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