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. Outdoor recreation 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.
Diverse opportunities for outdoor recreation continue to grow - from mountain biking to paddle boarding – with rising participation by locals and visitors and expanding high quality recreation infrastructure. Despite the many opportunities to do business 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 not for profit organization to increase and expand the outdoor sector.
Private – sector effort
Outdoor recreation businesses held a series of focus groups through the spring of 2018 and established the Vermont Outdoor Business Alliance (VOBA) 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 its ability to bring the outdoor recreation industry together to support each other and to educate Vermonters about outdoor recreation. VOBA can facilitate collaborations between outdoor recreation businesses, state government agencies, and non-profit partners, garnering resources that strengthen Vermont’s recreation legacy. Together, we can strive to position Vermont as an exemplary outdoor recreation state for the future.
What’s next for VOBA?
Over 50 outdoor recreation industry leaders attended VOBA’s first roundtable in November 2018 to talk about the education and development opportunities for Vermont’s outdoor recreation economy. VOBA has scheduled 3 Roundtables across the state in 2019 and is planning a fall Industry Summit to explore how to support and grow the sector, specifically in the area of financing, workforce development, infrastructure, and sector branding.
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.