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Governor Seeks Expansion of Minnesota’s Outdoor Recreation Industry

Partnership formed with goal to make Minnesota a top 10 state in outdoor recreation

By Todd R. Berger

8.22.23 MN Outdoor Recreation Kayaks Northern Minnesota AdobeStock_224030756
Kayaks lined up in northern Minnesota’s Lake Country. | Photo by scandamerican, Courtesy of Adobe Stock

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced a partnership to expand Minnesota’s $10 billion outdoor recreation industry. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Explore Minnesota Tourism (EMT), and Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation (IRRR) will partner to enhance and expand Minnesota’s outdoor recreation economy for the social and economic benefit of all Minnesotans and visitors to the state.

“Minnesota’s $9.9 billion outdoor recreation industry drives our local and regional economies,” says Governor Walz. “From the North Shore to the Winona bluffs, tourism is central to telling the story of who we are as a state. This partnership will highlight our world-class natural resources and outdoor recreation opportunities, while creating jobs across the state.”

The Outdoor Recreation Industry Partnership will combine each agency’s individual strengths—natural resource management, economic development, and marketing—to connect individuals and communities to outdoor recreation resources, build coalitions, and communicate significant benefits of outdoor recreation.

The partnership will build on previous work by the Minnesota Outdoor Recreation Task Force and Governor’s Council on Economic Expansion. This will be a first-of-its-kind effort to bring state agencies together in a partnership dedicated to the economic growth of the outdoor recreation sector. Commissioners of the partnership agencies will meet quarterly to plan and track progress. Staff are currently on a statewide tour to gather feedback and form a strategic plan with 1-, 3-, and 10-year goals.

“Outdoor recreation is not only a vital industry to Minnesota’s economy, but a fundamental part of our everyday lives,” says DEED Commissioner Matt Varilek. “DEED is excited to partner with the DNR, IRRR, and EMT to build on the existing $9.9 billion industry, and to continue growing our vibrant outdoor recreation workforce and economy.”

DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen adds, “Connecting people to the outdoors is a priority for the DNR because it’s good for the state’s economy and the health and wellness of Minnesotans. We’re excited to work with partners across state government to grow opportunities for high-quality outdoor recreation and foster future stewards of our natural resources.”

Minnesota’s outdoor recreation economy accounts for $9.9 billion in gross domestic product, 91,336 jobs, and $4.7 billion in overall compensation, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The top activities by economic impact are boating and fishing; hunting, shooting, and trapping; and recreational vehicles. Minnesota is currently ranked 15th in the nation for outdoor recreation GDP. The Outdoor Recreation Industry Partnership aims to move Minnesota into the top 10.

“Year-round outdoor recreation is vital for thriving communities,” says IRRR Commissioner Ida Rukavina. “Amenities such as lakes and trails that may be utilized by anglers, snowmobilers, bikers, and riders have important economic impacts. The Outdoor Recreation Industry Partnership was formed to further support our local communities and families, and to attract new residents hoping to make Minnesota their home.”

Outdoor recreation benefits Minnesota communities, with 93% of Minnesotans reporting outdoor activity to be “very” or “somewhat” important, according to the DNR’s 2017 Minnesota Outdoor Activities Survey. It attracts entrepreneurs, skilled workers, retirees, investment income, manufacturing facilities, and new residents. Outdoor recreation also increases traffic to local businesses, tax revenue, local health outcomes, and satisfaction of current residents.

“Minnesota is a great place to visit to enjoy the natural beauty and world-class outdoor opportunities,” says EMT Director Lauren Bennett McGinty. “From fishing for walleye on Lake Winnebigoshish to biking the Root River and Harmony-Preston Valley trails in the driftless region to lake-hopping and urban hiking in the Twin Cities, we will continue to promote these opportunities for the enjoyment of all and the economic benefit of local communities.”