Vermont’s recreation legacy
Vermont’s bucolic landscape with nestled communities and quality recreation amenities have always made our state a world-class place to live, work, and play. The outdoor recreation industry has historically been an economic engine in the Green Mountain State, dominated by traditional sports, such as hunting and fishing, and the mainstream past times of downhill skiing/riding and hiking. Many pillars of the industry have been based in Vermont.
Diverse opportunities for outdoor recreation continue to grow - from mountain biking to disc golf – with rising participation by locals and visitors and expanding high quality recreation infrastructure. Despite the many opportunities to do businesses in the state, however, many challenges exist for businesses offering services, operating retail or manufacturing products in the outdoor recreation sector.
Public sector effort
To spur attention to and investment in Vermont’s outdoor recreation, Governor Phil Scott established the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative [VOREC] in June of 2017. The purpose of this public/private partnership is to “leverage Vermont’s outdoor recreation assets, brand, and culture to sustain, grow, and drive economic development in the outdoor recreation sector and the Vermont economy as a whole.”
After a series of public forums in the fall of 2017, the Governor endorsed one of VOREC’s recommendations in January of 2018 for “a private sector-led initiative to create a non-profit business organization to increase and expand the outdoor sector.”
Private – sector effort
VOREC’s business members hosted a series of focus groups through the spring of 2018 to establish the Vermont Outdoor Business Alliance as an organization that would operate independently from state government (and VOREC). Over the summer, a Steering Committee developed a mission and established a structure for how VOBA will be led, coordinated, and organized.
VOBA’s value and impact will come from the ability to bring the outdoor recreation industry together to support each other; to attract, grow, and retain outdoor recreation businesses to Vermont; and, to unite as an industry sector to leverage support from government agencies and non-profit partners. VOBA can elevate the industry voice in garnering resources to improve the business and economic climate in the state, in turn strengthening our local communities. Together, we can position Vermont as an exemplary outdoor recreation state.
What’s next for VOBA?
Through 2019, VOBA will host a series of business roundtables across the state to hear from industry leaders about the state of the outdoor recreation industry in Vermont. Discussions will hone in on opportunities to support and grow the sector, specifically in the areas of access to capital, workforce development, infrastructure, and sector branding. Ideas will define the activities for VOBA into 2020 and beyond in pursuing outdoor recreation business development opportunities in Vermont.
VOBA uses the Collective Impact framework as a multi-sector collaborative working to address complex social and economic problems. The five components of Collective Impact include developing a common agenda, establishing backbone support, coordinating mutually reinforcing activities, using shared measurement and continuously communicating ideas and progress.
VOBA has preliminarily identified four priority areas that will strengthen, expand, attract and retain outdoor recreation economy businesses in Vermont. Initial focus group discussions and survey responses indicated that Vermont outdoor recreation businesses would benefit from greater access to capital, workforce development, infrastructure, and sector branding.