First Measure of Outdoor Economy – $373.7B

by Wendy on February 19, 2018

by Kathleen McLaughlin (The Bulletin)

For the first time, the federal government and private industry have a picture of the outdoor industry’s contribution to the national economy, and it has been growing quickly.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis announced Wednesday that outdoor recreation accounted for $373.7 billion of gross domestic product in 2016, and that it grew 3.8 percent, compared with 2.8-percent growth in the overall economy.

Outdoor recreation was already counted in the GDP, but its many components are hidden in various industries. Recreational vehicle sales, for example, were counted along with other motor vehicle sales, and RV manufacturing was with other transportation equipment. The BEA’s new outdoor recreation satellite account pulls figures from throughout the economy, similar to the way travel and tourism is measured.

And RV use is a big source of economic activity, the BEA found. Activity around motorized vehicles was the single-largest category, accounting for $59.4 billion of gross output in 2016. RVs accounted for more than half that value at $30 billion.

“We’re on par with golf, just nobody knows we’re here,” said Bradley Waring, executive director of the Oregon RV Alliance in Junction City. There are 175 RV campgrounds in Oregon, he said. Winnebago is producing high-end models in Junction City, the company’s first manufacturing plant outside of Iowa, he said. Places like the Deschutes County Expo RV Park host rallies that draw hundreds of people.

The RV’s role in the outdoor economy is striking given the way the industry collapsed during the Great Recession, Waring said. Big Country RV, a dealership with locations in Redmond and Bend, has been steadily growing sales since 2009, general manager John Younger said. The Bend store saw record sales in 2016 and sold even more brand-new RVs last year, he said.

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