Outdoor Economy Conference Returns To Western North Carolina

July 22, 2019

Asheville, NC (July 22, 2019) – The Outdoor Economy Conference will return to Western North Carolina (WNC) for a second year on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. After selling out in its inaugural year, the conference has doubled in size and grown in scope with the help of the new Growing Outdoors Partnership, a regional economic development initiative focused on the outdoors sector. This year’s event will be hosted at the Crowne Plaza Resort in Asheville, naturally adjacent to zip lines, mountain bike trails, and other outdoor amenities, and is poised to draw more than 500 industry influencers.

“Outdoor recreation is growing nationwide and brings $28 billion in annual economic impact to our state, making us the sixth largest outdoor economy in the nation,” said Noah Wilson, program director for Growing Outdoors. “This conference is bringing together the entire mountain region of North Carolina to connect, collaborate, and harness these opportunities.”

This year’s attendees will include outdoor industry businesses of all types, conservationists and public land managers, and academic and workforce development experts, along with government leaders, financiers, and professional service providers.

Tickets are available for purchase through the conference website at outdooreconomy.org. Reduced-price “trendsetter” tickets are available through Aug. 31.

Conference participants will engage around the diverse building blocks essential for a thriving outdoor recreation economy. A sampling of speakers include:

  • Sarah Shrader, who will share how outdoor recreation is revitalizing the mining towns along the western slope of Colorado, and how these strategies are applicable to North Carolina mountain communities.
  • Kenji Haroutunian, former director of the Outdoor Retailer trade show, who will speak about the outdoor industry’s movement to ensure that the outdoors is more equitable and accessible.
  • Amy Allison, marketing manager for Eagle’s Nest Outfitters (ENO) and a co-founder of the Outdoor Gear Builders of WNC, who will be leading a panel on how the tastes and attitudes of outdoor consumers are changing, and what brands and communities can do to effectively engage them.

“WNC is the biggest outdoor industry hub east of the Rockies,” said Allison. “Our 40-plus local companies are both making extraordinary gear and making a positive impact on their places. We’re working hard to make sure that this event meets the needs of the industry as well as those of the communities our members live and build their businesses in.”

To that end, the conference will include five tracks (see details below), allowing participants to focus on the topics most relevant to them. The Outdoor Gear Builders will also be hosting an on-site Gear Expo, where attendees will get hands-on with locally made gear and sample tasty treats from outdoor-inspired food and beverage makers.

The pre-conference reception on Oct. 9 will feature an Outdoor Biz Pitch competition starring the eight growing brands in the new Waypoint Accelerator program – the East Coast’s first outdoor business accelerator.

This work builds on a strong foundation. Western Carolina University (WCU) founded the Outdoor Economy Conference in fall 2018 and remains a core partner on both the conference as well as the overall Growing Outdoors Partnership.

“WCU is excited about the 2019 Outdoor Economy Conference. It’s an excellent opportunity to showcase regional innovation and creative workforce solutions, as well as to make connections that keep our positive, collaborative momentum going,” said Arthur Salido, the university’s executive director of community and economic engagement and innovation.

Discounted “trendsetter” tickets for the 2019 conference will be available online through Aug. 31. To purchase tickets and get more information about the conference, sessions, and speakers, visit outdooreconomy.org.

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Conference Tracks

The 2019 Outdoor Economy Conference will feature five tracks, allowing participants to focus on the topics most relevant to them.

  • Training and retaining a world-class outdoor industry workforce.
  • Growing a regional brand that elevates the Appalachian Mountains to their rightful place in the outdoor industry pantheon.
  • Driving a new wave of American-made gear manufacturing in Appalachia.
  • Highlighting and supporting the outdoor places that are the foundation of the region’s outdoor economy.
  • Building thriving outdoor communities, a specialized track designed to help rural communities capitalize on their outdoor assets. This track, led by acclaimed outdoor community builders Active Strategies, includes a special half-day workshop on the morning after the main conference to help communities move from learning to action.

Event Sponsors

The Outdoor Economy Conference is made possible through the generous support of a number of sponsors including Appalachian Regional Commission, Duke Energy, Ward and Smith, P.A., Wildwater, Active Strategies, Johnson Price Sprinkle, Mountain BizWorks, Outdoor Gear Builders of WNC, Van Winkle Law Firm, and Western Carolina University.

The Growing Outdoors Partnership

The Growing Outdoors Partnership is an initiative of more than a dozen nonprofits, businesses, academic institutions, and government agencies working together to expand the outdoor industry and build a thriving outdoor economy across 25 counties in Western North Carolina. For more information, visit outdoorswnc.com.

The Outdoor Gear Builders

The Outdoor Gear Builders of WNC is a coalition of Western North Carolina-based outdoor companies collaborating to share talents, encourage new ideas and inspire each other. The member brands are dedicated to creating exceptional outdoor gear with a focus on responsible manufacturing, cutting edge innovation and economic growth in the region. For more information, visit outdoorgearbuilders.com.

Mountain BizWorks

Mountain BizWorks is a U.S. Treasury certified non-profit community development financial institution (CDFI) that provides tailored small business lending and peer learning programs to help grow great businesses and expand economic opportunity in Western North Carolina. For more information, visit mountainbizworks.org.