Protecting outdoor recreation is ‘critical’ to the economy

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A Correct Craft employee checks the oil in an engine installation.

A Correct Craft employee checks the oil in an engine installation.

Correct Craft CEO Bill Yeargin said he’s getting positive feedback on an op-ed he wrote for the Orlando Sun Sentinel explaining that outdoor recreation contributes 2.2 percent to the nation’s GDP — more than mining or agriculture — and accounts for $734 billion in annual gross economic output.

“People did not realize outdoor recreation was such a big part of the economy,” Yeargin told Trade Only Today. “Serving as vice chair of the Outdoor Recreation Committee, advising the Secretary of Interior, is a real honor. I was in Washington, D.C., this week meeting with the Department of Interior to discuss how we can responsibly encourage more outdoor recreation and how we can provide the infrastructure to support what we’re trying to do. It is very exciting and should be very good for the boating industry.”

Many look back fondly on their time spent outdoors, Yeargin said in the op-ed. But many people don’t realize those memories are also fueling a major part of the U.S. economy.

“Exploring the great outdoors has long been an American pastime, but it was only this year that we gained a formal understanding of just how important the outdoor recreation industry is to the national economy,” Yeargin wrote.

In February, the Bureau of Economic Analysis — the government agency responsible for calculating U.S. gross domestic product — recognized the outdoor recreation industry in its calculations for the first time.

The report, known as the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account, was championed by Sen. Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat.

BEA ranked the outdoor recreation industry as one the nation’s largest sectors — ahead of the mining, utilities and chemical products manufacturing industries, Yeargin said.

The data also show that the outdoor recreation economy is growing at a rapid pace, exceeding the U.S. economy overall, Yeargin said.

That has been true for Correct Craft: The company has doubled its workforce over the past few years, Yeargin said.

“Today, our team of nearly 1,300 workers, including over 700 in Florida, builds boats and engines in six factories across the United States,” Yeargin said. “Job seekers are turning to our company not only for good pay, but because our team is passionate about building products that allow our customers to enjoy the outdoors and connect with one another. BEA’s new data gives us good reason to think this trend will continue for the foreseeable future.”

That success has allowed Correct Craft to give back through its philanthropic efforts, Yeargin said.

The key to keeping this going is a “strong public-private investment, which first and foremost protects and preserves the intimate experience of our great outdoors,” Yeargin said.

That includes addressing an $18.6 billion public lands and waters maintenance backlog — from upgrades to campgrounds and boat ramps to modernizing national parks so visitors have Wi-Fi to help them safely navigate trails.

“Joining government and the private sector to meet the needs of our public lands and waterways is a common-sense, efficient approach that will ensure our public spaces are brought into a state of good repair and meet the demands of the 21st century visitor,” Yeargin said.

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