A new kind of industry partnership

Oregon State University's Center for the Outdoor Recreation Economy emerged from extensive conversations with industry leaders.

These industry partners described a growing skills gap and challenges in recruiting and retaining a truly diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce.

Through research, partnerships and industry-informed technical skills and leadership training programs, we’re dedicated to meeting these needs and connecting the outdoor recreation economy to its full economic, social and environmental potential.

Understanding the outdoor recreation economy ​

An unrecognized powerhouse
In terms of its contribution to the GDP, the outdoor recreation industry rivals high-profile sectors like mining, agriculture and big pharma. ​

Grounded in local communities
With outdoor businesses in communities of every size and region, outdoor recreation economy contributes to the quality of life for rural and urban communities.

Supporting a small business renaissance
At a time when business consolidation is increasing inequality in the United States, the outdoor recreation economy is an engine for small business growth. ​

the outdoor industry's direct contribution to the national GDP
gross economic output
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American jobs in the outdoor recreation sector    

US employees work in the outdoor recreation sector

Economic benefits are just the beginning

A thriving outdoor recreation industry makes the outdoors more accessible and inviting.
That's a win for everyone.


Developmental Health

When children connect with the natural world: Their health improves; they do better in school; they develop social and emotional resilience.


Lifelong Wellbeing

Spending time outdoors improves the health of both children and adults. It also leads to more exercise, improved concentration, and better health.


Community Resilience

Regular, equitable access to open, natural spaces improves community cohesion, reduces crime and results in increased civic participation.


Environment Connection

Outdoor recreation connects us to place and increases our knowledge of and support for conservation and environmental engagement.


There's work to be done





The outdoor recreation economy has the potential to be an even greater driver of positive economic, social and environmental change. Here’s the to-do list.

  • Make outdoor recreation accessible to all, regardless of background or ability by understanding and removing barriers to full participation.
  • Create a pipeline of highly skilled workers from all backgrounds, foster clear pathways for inclusive career advancement and cultivate culturally literate, equitable standards and practice at all levels.
  • Establish standards around core competencies to raise performance industry-wide, to support opportunities for skilled workers, and to empower employers to recruit from outside of existing networks.
  • Develop and deliver 21st century workforce and professional development training that leverages the full possibilities of existing and emerging technology to create inviting, accessible and highly effective learning experiences for all.
Explore our research and programmatic priorities to learn more about how we are working to help advance this bold agenda.

Learn About Our Research

Learn About Our Programs







Land Acknowledgement:
Oregon State University in Corvallis, OR is located in the traditional territory of the Chepenefa  ("Mary's River") band of the Kalapuya. After the Kalapuya Treaty (Treaty of Dayton) in 1855, Kalapuya people were forcibly removed to what are now the Grand Ronde and Siletz reservations, and are now members of Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon ( and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians (