Virginia becomes 15th state to create an Office of Outdoor Recreation

During an event held last week at Carvins Cove Natural Reserve, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced the creation of an Office of Outdoor Recreation to lead efforts to promote the outdoor recreation industry in Virginia and recruit new outdoor businesses to the Commonwealth.

Virginia joined a growing number of states that have embraced the importance of the outdoor industry by establishing an Office of Outdoor Recreation – drawing praise from the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR). The event was attended by ORR and its members — including the National Marine Manufacturers Association and RV Industry Association — as well as partner the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and local business Missile Baits.

The outdoor recreation industry contributes nearly $22 billion annually to the Virginia economy, and employs more than 197,000 Virginians. Virginia will be the 15th state in the nation to establish an office or task force dedicated to strengthening the outdoor industry, and the third on the East Coast.

“Every region of our Commonwealth is home to unique outdoor assets and recreation opportunities, which continue to earn national praise and are sought out by millions of travelers each year,” Northam said. “In establishing a statewide Office of Outdoor Recreation, we are taking significant steps to recognize the importance of this industry as a true driver of economic development in the Commonwealth, and demonstrate why Virginia is the natural fit for outdoor business. Outdoor recreation not only improves the growth potential of our communities, but it also aligns with our goals on land conservation, workforce development, and public health.”

The Office will lead an effort to grow the outdoor industry in Virginia through industry promotion, coordination, and recruitment. Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade Cassidy Rasnick will serve as director of the Office, which will be staffed by agencies currently working to promote Virginia’s outdoor assets and top ranked business climate.

The Office is spearheading an initiative to recruit manufacturers of outdoor products such as kayaks, bicycles, and gear to locate or expand in the Commonwealth and produce their goods in the state — spurring job creation and private investment, while creating opportunities for outdoor tourism focused partnerships and on-site demo experiences.

“Outdoor recreation not only contributes to a community’s economy, but also to its sense of place,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “Quality of life is often a key decision point for businesses deciding on their next location, and we want to leverage every asset in Virginia’s value proposition. Our diverse outdoor assets, combined with our ranking as the country’s Top State for Business, make Virginia the perfect place for new and expanding outdoor businesses.”

“We have made great progress to improve air and water quality and protect the special places across the Commonwealth that attract so many lovers of the outdoors,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “Governor Northam and I are committed to building upon this progress and I look forward to working closely with the new Office of Outdoor Recreation to promote, restore, and protect Virginia’s natural landscapes and environment.”

“The creation of the Office of Outdoor Recreation is a huge step forward for Virginia, one of my favorite states to recreate in,” said Jessica Wahl, executive director of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “Outdoor recreation in this state generates billions of dollars each year, creating jobs, supporting rural communities and promoting conservation. We thank the state of Virginia – including Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler and Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade for Rural Economic Development Cassidy Rasnick – for their leadership in recognizing outdoor recreation’s importance and look forward to working with them to make sure residents and visitors alike have access to their public lands and waters for generations to come.”

“It was great to see the Governor creating a real initiative to promote outdoor recreation in Virginia,” said John Crews, president of Missile Baits. “As a pro bass angler and fishing lure business owner, I know that Virginia can be an even greater destination for anglers, which translates into increased business for many industries.”

“With this move, Virginia joins the growing number of states that have created an office dedicated to advancing outdoor recreation opportunities and the businesses and jobs they support,” said Nicole Vasilaros, National Marine Manufacturers Association senior vice president of government and legal affairs. “Led by boating and fishing, outdoor recreation generates a significant amount of economic activity each year and this office will help ensure our industry – and our beloved pastimes – continue to thrive.”

“The RV industry applauds the creation of an Office of Outdoor Recreation in Virginia and the state’s commitment to prioritizing outdoor recreation,” said Jay Landers, RV Industry Association vice president of government affairs. “In addition to outdoor recreation as a whole, this office will support the nearly 400 RV businesses who create more than 7,000 jobs and pay $340 million in wages here in Virginia.”

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