For many Floridians, a day of fun means visiting the Everglades, boating, fishing, or just enjoying our beautiful beaches.
While we know that people love outdoor recreation, it was just recently the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) confirmed what an important part it is of the economy. It’s even bigger than many people realized.
With the constant flurry of information coming out of Washington, it’s easy to miss seemingly innocuous reports from government agencies like the BEA – a branch of the Department of Commerce that produces rigorous studies, underpinning decisions by policymakers about trade policy, taxes, spending, and more. But when the BEA speaks like it did regarding the outdoor recreation industry, everyone – businesses, lawmakers, regulators – should listen.
For more than two years, experts at the BEA have been working to answer the question of how outdoor recreation benefits the economy. A growing perception that outdoor recreation activities deliver considerable economic benefits prompted the BEA to measure outdoor recreation’s economic impact nationally and in all 50 states.
Earlier this fall, the BEA released the data: the outdoor economy accounts for 2.2 percent of U.S. GDP, supports 5.2 million American jobs, and contributes $778 billion in gross output.
Compared to other industries that the BEA measures, outdoor recreation’s economic impact is on par with broadcasting and telecommunications and surpasses industries such as mining, utilities, farming and ranching, and chemical products manufacturing.
Furthermore, the outdoor recreation economy is growing at 3.9 percent – significantly outpacing the 2.4 percent growth rate of the overall U.S. economy.
The BEA’s report paints a similar and, in many cases, an even more impactful picture of outdoor recreation’s economic impact at the state level. In Florida, outdoor recreation accounts for 4.3 percent of GDP and directly creates more than 500,000 jobs. As a result, our state is the second largest contributor to the overall U.S. outdoor recreation economy.
While the national and state numbers are staggering, they should not come as a surprise. Most Americans participate in at least one type of outdoor recreation activity each year. Few industries can say the same.
Boating and fishing alone – the top contributors to the outdoor recreation economy – are enjoyed by more than 141 million Americans annually, and that number is increasing. Several aspects, beyond the obvious fact that boating is extremely enjoyable, contribute to its popularity.
Efforts to elevate the outdoor recreation industry at the national level have been underway for several years. Today, 125 U.S. Representatives and Senators are members of the bipartisan Congressional Boating Caucus.
And, last month, the U.S. House Committee on Small Business held a hearing titled, “Force of Nature: The Power of Small Businesses in America’s Recreational Infrastructure,” to discuss policies that will improve infrastructure on public lands and waterways and ensure Americans are able to continue enjoying these great national treasures.
The states haven’t been quiet either – 16 have created offices dedicated to protecting and promoting outdoor recreation opportunities. With the launch of the National Governors Association’s Outdoor Recreation Learning Network this summer, the number of states that join this endeavor will only increase. I encourage our leaders to add Florida to the rapidly growing list of states that have established an Office of Outdoor Recreation.
It’s abundantly clear from the BEA’s report – coupled with consumers’ expanding appetite for outdoor recreation experiences – that the outdoor recreation industry is and will be essential to the well-being of the national, state, and local economies for years to come. Fortunately, many decision makers across the country and in Florida have already recognized this and more are sure to follow.
Bill Yeargin is President and CEO of Correct Craft – a marine industry company based in Orlando with manufacturing plants across the U.S.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.