The PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) recently discussed U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) statistics that found outdoor recreation added nearly $14 billion in economic value to Pennsylvania’s economy at a webinar with the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), the BEA and Pennsylvania outdoor recreation business owners. “Understanding this data on a macro level is key in helping develop synergistic strategies to foster additional growth in outdoor recreation,” said Director of Outdoor Recreation Nathan Reigner. “With this data, we can see the big picture of the economic impact outdoor recreation is bringing to the commonwealth. Digging deeper, we can follow the trail of the dollars from outdoor recreation to Pennsylvania’s manufacturing, retail, tourism, information, and service sectors.”
Pennsylvania has the sixth largest outdoor recreation economy in the nation, supported by a combination of its exceptional recreational assets, generally diversified economy, active participation by Pennsylvania residents, and strong retail, manufacturing, and tourism sectors. The $13.6 billion in economic value added also supports 152,000 full-time jobs in Pennsylvania. Nationally, outdoor recreation generates $862 billion in economic output, accounting for approximately 3 percent of all jobs in America.
“This information in key to extending a broader invitation for all to explore Penn’s Woods,” said Carrie Fischer Lepore, DCED deputy secretary for Marketing, Tourism and Film. “While Pennsylvania does welcome more than 200 million visitors annually, many of which are drawn to our greater than great outdoors, this information helps us invite and welcome those that have yet to explore our backyard.”
During the webinar, speakers detailed how BEA data drills down into special topics, such as outdoor recreation, to measure the true impact of the industry from all sources outdoor recreation-based value added to Pennsylvania’s GDP, employment, and compensation for different types of industry. From there the data are developed for specific outdoor activities, such as biking, RVing, or snowboarding, to measure the full cycle of the economic.
This holistic viewpoint helps build the commonwealth’s understanding of how to improve outdoor recreation opportunities and is useful to the state, local chambers of commerce, municipalities and other organizations striving to understand the trends driving outdoor recreation, including user habits. Reigner noted that this data is also key for businesses seeking to develop forward-thinking strategies to market, promote, and potentially expand operations.
“Pennsylvania is a truly extraordinary place to live and work,” said Nick Gilson, owner of Gilson Snow, “We’re building with locally grown and sustainably harvested timber and shipping out to over 50 countries globally from a small farm in the Susquehanna river valley. We have been blown away by the ways in which the Pennsylvania business ecosystem and greater community have embraced our work and team of craftsmen and women.”
Though Pennsylvania’s total compensation for outdoor recreation work ranks seventh among all states, its rate of compensation growth is 38th among all states. Reigner noted this as an area where Pennsylvania can make progress, pointing to outdoor recreation workers making about 57% the wages of the average Pennsylvania worker, $44,623 in 2021, compared with $77,884 for all salaried jobs in the state.
“Our purpose is written at the entrance of our stores: ‘We exist to celebrate and protect public lands for all,’ this is our why and the path we are following,” Public Lands Manager of Community Marketing Steve Wood said. “We work to create an experience inside and outside of our store that is welcoming and style forward, while also technically legitimate and authentically connected to the community and our public lands.”