Douglas Scott | Jul 27th, 2017

The Huge Impact of the Outdoor Industry on the Evergreen State

The Outdoor Industry is flexing some serious economic muscle around the country. In a study released at the end of July of 2017, the economic impact of outdoor enthusiasts is more than most realize, generating billions of dollars in taxable revenue and creating millions of jobs around the country. America’s Outdoor Recreation Industry is the 4th highest consumer spending industry in the nation, thanks to millions of people who get outdoors each year. Washington State is one of the regions leading the way in the Outdoor Industry and the impact of hikers, climbers, bikers and campers is flabbergastingly huge. 

It is easy to understand why outdoor recreation is so important and special in Washington State. We have amazing National Parks, breathtaking State Parks, some of the most pristine wilderness in the world, stunning summits and the beauty of eastern Washington to choose from each day we have off from work. While many of us get outdoors to nourish our souls, our meditate relationship with our local natural wonders is also giving a boost to Washington’s economy. Every trail we walk, every park or natural area we visit, every store we stop at and every piece of gear we buy is making our state’s economy stronger. Bringing in billions in state and local tax revenue, outdoor recreation in a state famous for beautiful wilderness has made the outdoor industry one of the most important players in a our economy.

Jobs depending on the outdoor industry in Washington State outnumber the aerospace industry by roughly 65,000.

~ Bureau of Economic Analysis

Nearly three quarters (72%) of residents in the Evergreen State are said to participate in outdoor recreation each year. With 72% of residents heading outdoors, Washington is one of the most active outdoor states in the nation. Washington is tied with Utah and Vermont, Washington is only behind Alaska and Montana (81% active), Idaho (79%), North Dakota (76%) and Wyoming (73%).

The level out outdoor enthusiasts has helped create and sustain over 200,000 jobs in Washington. This number is nothing at which to scoff. The jobs depending on the Outdoor Industry in Washington State outnumber the aerospace industry by roughly 65,000, according to a study released by the Outdoor Industry Association, which quotes statistics from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Washington’s outdoor recreation sustains 201,000 direct jobs, generates 26.2 billion in consumer spending each year and brings in roughly $2.3 billion in state and local tax revenue.

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According to the Outdoor Industry Associations (OIA) study, “Communities across Washington recognize that outdoor recreation supports, contributes to a high quality of life and—perhaps most importantly—attracts and sustains employers and families. Investing in outdoor infrastructure attracts employers and active workforces, ensuring those communities thrive economically and socially.”

The Outdoor Society reported last year on the economic boost brought by Mount Rainier National Park and Olympic National Park. Together, the two parks helped bring in over $450 million to the local economy and created/supported 3,900 jobs. Now, thanks to the OIA study, we can see just how much more of an impact outdoor recreation has in Washington’s economy.

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Nationally, the Outdoor Industry is one our nation’s largest economic sectors, generating 7.6 million jobs and creating $59.2 billion in state and local tax revenue. Generating $887 billion in consumer spending each year, the Outdoor Industry is the 4th strongest consumer spending sector in America, behind only hospital care, outpatient health care, and financial services and insurances. The Outdoor Industry nearly doubles consumer spending in both the pharmaceutical industry and motor vehicle sales and parts. The Outdoor Industry also has way more consumer spending than household utilities, gasoline and fuel costs, and education. The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis is expected to be releasing confirmation of these numbers, as well as a report on the outdoor industry’s overall impact on the U.S. economy, sometime in 2018.

So What Does All This Mean?

Boiling down this data, one thing is easy to see. The Outdoor Industry is a force in America’s economic future. With companies like Patagonia leading the fight against destruction and privatization of Public Lands, reports like this only bolster our cause. The positives that come from public lands and having areas of outdoor recreation are unfathomably huge, not just interns of economics, but even for the health of our population. Studies have shown that time outdoors is a good way to reduce stress, be happier and even live longer. Now, combined with the ecumenic positives of the recreation industry, we have a way to speak to legislators who only care about the bottom line, financially. Will reports like this make a difference for protection of public lands and strong support for outdoor recreation? Only time will tell. However, things like this can’t hurt our cause.

Now go out and continue to support businesses who work in the Outdoor Industry. Maybe even buy one of our books or calendars!