This week, Governor Jared Polis and the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office (OREC) of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) announced a new grant program to support continued pandemic recovery among outdoor recreation industry businesses and nonprofits. The Outdoor Recreation Industry Impact Fund (ORIIF) will provide funding to help outdoor recreation industry employers hire and retain staff across the state.
“We are continuing to bring good-paying jobs to Colorado’s robust outdoor recreation industry, boosting our strong economy and making sure Coloradans can find careers they love around our world-class outdoors,” said Governor Polis.
“Colorado has seen one of the fastest recoveries in the nation, and the opportunity to direct these funds to the outdoor recreation industry will help ensure that this important sector continues to thrive and add jobs across the state,” said Eve Lieberman, OEDIT Executive Director.
According to data released last fall by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), outdoor recreation accounted for 2.7 percent of Colorado’s economy and 4.3 percent of the state’s employment, or 125,244 jobs, in 2021.
That represents an increase in employment of 13.4 percent over the year 2020, which is just ahead of the national average of 13.1 percent.
This is an average: it could be pointed out that in many tourism-focused counties such as Chaffee, Lake, Summit, and Eagle counties, the percentage of the workforce involved in outdoor recreation is significantly higher.
“The outdoor recreation industry is a huge economic driver in Colorado and an important source of jobs for Coloradans,” said OREC Director, Conor Hall. “While we have seen significant growth in outdoor recreation employment, we have also observed a consistent need for support among outdoor recreation employers as they continue their efforts to steward our natural resources while also creating more equitable employment in the outdoors.”
Throughout a statewide listening tour, OREC staff received consistent feedback that communities reliant upon outdoor recreation have seen increased interest in recent years. Yet employers are balancing the need to retain or hire staff with rising costs of living and housing.
After introducing OREC’s first-ever grant opportunity in June 2022, the Colorado State Outdoor Recreation Grant (COSORG), Hall and the OREC team saw significant interest in funding for staffing and professional development. Of 10 grant recipients announced in October 2022, six recipients used the funds in part or in whole to address workforce development needs.
To respond to these needs, the newly introduced Outdoor Recreation Industry Impact Fund will provide $1.8 million in State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF); part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), to support payroll needs. Grants of up to $100,000 are intended to cover hiring and staff retention for outdoor recreation industry businesses and nonprofits that can demonstrate negative economic impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The review period opens February 1, 2023 and applications must be submitted by February 28, 2023. Learn more at https://oedit.colorado.gov/oriif
The Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office (OREC) was established to provide a central point of contact, advocacy, and resources at the state level for the diverse constituents, businesses, and communities that rely on the continued health of the outdoor recreation economy. OREC’s mission is to champion industry, communities, and people to come to life through Colorado’s great outdoors.