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Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission Releases Report on Maine’s Outdoor Recreation Industry

By April 18, 2022No Comments

Consultant Report Finds Opportunities For Growth and an Urgent Need to Protect Assets

Saco, ME (April 12, 2022) – Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission (SMPDC) is releasing the findings from a newly completed comprehensive look at a significant part of the Southern Maine economy – outdoor recreation. The Outdoor Recreation Industry Profile and Strategy Report was completed with Camoin Associates, an economic development consulting firm with offices in Portland, ME. The report focused on the region’s twin assets of amenities/attractions and existing outdoor recreation equipment manufacturers. This two-pronged approach was designed to get to the core benefits of outdoor recreation – the jobs and sales associated with creating products and services as well as the quality of life attributes that make for a great place to live and visit.

The Outdoor Recreation Industry is responsible for a significant portion of Southern Maine’s economy:

  • Attracting 5.5 million visitors in 2020

  • Generating $188.6 million in sales annually

  • Contributing nearly $105.3 million to the regional gross domestic product (GRP)

  • Representing 12% of Maine’s total outdoor recreation GRP

According to Paul Schumacher, Executive Director of SMPDC, “We saw a need for this report because we recognize the potential for outdoor recreation to drive our economy in Southern Maine. But growth of the industry must be thoughtful and strategic. This report helps determine steps we can take to further grow the industry in a way that aligns with community values, protects our existing outdoor assets while simultaneously leveraging opportunities to strengthen the existing industry through business support and development services.”

The leadership at Maine Outdoor Brands (MOB), the nonprofit that advocates for outdoor product/service innovators and entrepreneurs, applauds the report. Jenny Kordick, MOB executive director says, “Maine Outdoor Brands commends SMPDC for this report, which clearly evaluates trends, impacts, and needs for Maine’s outdoor recreation industry. Importantly, this report takes a holistic view of outdoor recreation and offers concrete recommendations for how communities, businesses, and state leaders can work together to attract jobs, grow the economy, and improve quality of life through investments in the outdoor sector. We’re excited by this vision and are eager to continue working to ensure that our state and all Mainers can enjoy the numerous benefits that outdoor recreation provides.”

The report’s two-pronged approach analyzed the market for goods and services produced and sold in the region by outdoor recreation equipment manufacturers; and the use and demand of amenities (the report cited the Marginal Way, Eastern Trail, and Mount Agamenticus as examples.) Camoin Associates employed a combination of quantitative and qualitative research: analysis, focus groups, and stakeholder interviews. They spoke with business owners, outdoor recreation advocates, and public officials about challenges and opportunities, and they conducted a “best practices” review of other states that are tackling this issue.

Key data findings include:

  • the population is growing and aging

  • household incomes are outpacing the rest of the state of Maine

  • COVID-19 impacted the industry with an influx of people migrating to Maine and an increase in outdoor recreation participation

  • outdoor recreation businesses were negatively impacted, especially due to the labor shortage

Themes: Beyond these key data findings, throughout all the interviews, several themes emerged that highlighted strengths and weaknesses but also pointed to strategies for growth. These themes include:

  • Southern Maine has a wide variety of outdoor recreation – from fishing to cycling, camping to golfing

  • Outdoor recreation use increased during COVID-19 – which calls for education, awareness and funding for maintenance

  • Outdoor recreation is good for businesses – especially in attracting companies that are considering locating their businesses in Maine

  • All industries are facing workforce constraints – outdoor recreation can be used to recruit/attract talent

  • Outdoor recreation offers unique opportunities to collaborate – especially with small businesses and startups, including the idea of creating an incubator

  • Outdoor recreation offers an opportunity to build the Maine brand – since outdoor recreation is a key driver of Maine’s economy, and Southern Maine captures a large part of Maine visitation

Goals/Strategies:

  • Expand residents participation in outdoor recreation by communicating with them about their interests, assisting towns in promoting their assets, and collaborating on a digital map

  • Use outdoor recreation to attract new residents including new talent – by helping employers and organizations promote the Maine outdoor lifestyle, including its proximity to Portland and Boston, and also target places in US that have complementary skill sets to Maine industries

  • Protect Southern Maine’s special places/activities and identify opportunities for expansion – by promoting asset maintenance with existing residents and visitors, establishing a maintenance fund, and expanding trail infrastructure

  • Support existing and future outdoor industry equipment manufacturing businesses through business support and development – by offering technical assistance and training, encouraging greater collaboration within the industry, and establishing an incubator

According to Project Principal, Jim Damicis, Senior Vice President of Camoin Associates, “The report recommends that the strategies and tactics are not to be implemented solely by SMPDC. Key partners may include Maine Outdoor Brands, Maine Office of Outdoor Recreation, Maine Technology Institute, Chambers of Commerce, trail advocacy groups, community organizers, towns, and others. SMPDC can take the first step in communicating this to key groups and identifying opportunities for collaboration. Acting as the main convenor, SMPDC can help shepherd the plan towards implementation while bringing in the right organizations to support the overall goals.”

“It’s clear – investing in outdoor recreation boosts the economy,” continues Schumacher,  “Promoting  Southern Maine as a destination for outdoor recreation will attract businesses, residents, and workers – all of whom want the quality of life, all of which will lead to an increase in jobs and sales.”

For more information about the Report: https://smpdc.org/outdoorrec

About Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission
Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission (SMPDC) is a non-partisan nonprofit that cultivates thriving, sustainable communities and strengthens local governments by leading planning and economic development for 39 member towns in Southern Maine. The organization was founded in 1964 to provide technical expertise to municipalities in York County, and southern Oxford and Cumberland Counties. SMPDC offers a coordinated effort for land use, smart growth, resource management,  environmental sustainability, and transportation planning. For more information, please visit www.smpdc.org

 

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Contact: Barbara MacLeod

Barbara@CrossCurrentCommunications.com

207-752-0484