ALPENA — Expanding Michigan’s outdoor recreation economy is just one of the tasks given to the state Department of Natural Resources’ newly created Office of Outdoor Recreation and Industry.
The office, which will work in partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corp., is also designed to build awareness of businesses in the outdoor recreation industry, promote outdoor recreation activities across the state, identify emerging recreation trends, and encourage the stewardship of the state’s natural resources.
Kristen Phillips, chief of the DNR Marketing and Outreach Division, will be serve as director of the Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry, in addition to her current role.
Phillips envisions the new office will bring economic development officials, businesses, and nonprofit organizations together in partnership with state government. It will also provide access to services and resources and identify and remove barriers so the industry can grow.
“It’s just really fascinating, when you bring some of these folks together, to see the magic happen,” she said. “You facilitate these conversations and partnerships are developed.”
Phillips said she has already heard from officials with the Northeast Michigan Council of Government, who want to see how they might be able to work together.
Mary Beth Stutzman, president and CEO of the Alpena Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said it’s refreshing to see the state place a priority on making sure all of the stakeholders involved in Michigan’s outdoor recreation economy are connected.
“This whole thing is nothing but positive, not only for the state, but for residents, for visitors,” Stutzman said. “Our natural resources are such a huge part of our identity as a state and also as a community that any advocacy that is born from a desire to make sure that those things are protected is going to be a win.”
Stutzman said the conservation of outdoor resources has always been a top priority. She said residents of the Alpena area also value outdoor recreation opportunities and that recreation focused businesses have always been part of the economy.
Stutzman said the CVB has worked with Phillips for a number of years to promote fishing and trails in the Great Lakes regional area. She said Phillips really understands Michigan’s outdoor recreational economy and that Phillips is “effective.”
Phillips said an important part of the office is the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Council, created last year and comprised of a number of business professionals who work in the outdoor recreation industry.
“This council, part of our job is to go out around the state and part of what we will be doing is inviting in other businesses to talk to us about the needs in the area,” she said.
Phillips said outdoor recreation generates $26.6 billion in consumer spending statewide and that it also provides 232,000 direct jobs, which means it’s an economic driver. Additionally, she said outdoor recreation is important to people in Michigan and factors into their quality of life.
“People decide where they want to work based on the kind of recreation and the kind of resources that are around there,” Phillips said. “Michigan is a really special place, and I don’t think people that are outside of the state get that. We have all these opportunities for people to be outside and this is really just about driving that and sharing that message.”
Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or firstname.lastname@example.org.