Center for the Outdoor Recreation Economy
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The Center for the Outdoor Recreation Economy partners with trade and professional associations and outdoor companies to identify, assess, and analyze the biggest workforce trends and issues facing the outdoor recreation economy today.


From applied and market research to workforce assessments and standards development, our research teams - including OSU faculty, researchers, and graduate students - empower leaders to make data-drive decisions that drive their organizations and the industry forward.



The outdoor industry at large recognizes its substantial challenges in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Unfortunately, many companies — and especially small businesses — often don’t know where to begin when attempting to address these issues.

Cairn, a small outdoor recreation business based in Bend, Oregon, discovered an innovative way to partner with a university-led DEI consultant, allowing the company to move from clear commitment and good intentions to meaningful action. The engagement involved an organizational assessment, specialized trainings, and a strategic plan for Cairn's culture and practices going forward. While this example focuses on one company, the collaborative, personalized approach holds tremendous value as a potential model for other small businesses in the outdoor industry. 

Review the complete case study.


The Center partners with the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR), the nation's leading coalition of outdoor recreation trade associations, on critical research initiatives for the industry including:

1) Outdoor Industry Workforce & DEI Assessment (in progress) 

In partnership with one of ORR's member associations, the Outdoor Industry Association, OSU researchers developed an employer survey and assessment to better understand the workforce needs, goals, and efforts across the industry.

This project would not have been possible without the collaborative support of OSU's Office of Institutional Diversity, Survey Research Center, VF Foundation, Path to Peak Consulting, Confluence of States, and Basecamp Outdoor.

Sign up now to receive the findings report in late 2021.

2) COVID-19 Impact Study 

Surveying the industry in 2020 to measure the impacts of COVID-19 on the outdoor recreation industry as a whole, the most recent findings tell the story of an impressive, if still fragile, recovery.

3) Outdoor Recreation & Land and Water Conservation Fund Survey

With the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) now has a guaranteed source for $900 million in mandatory annual funding for outdoor recreation and conservation projects across the nation. 

With data collection support from the Center's graduate students, the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) now offers a comprehensive list of funding-ready projects. 


Working in collaboration with AARP and the College of Public Health & Human Sciences, the Center identified research and training opportunities dedicated to making the outdoors more accessible and inclusive of the 50+ community.

One of the outcomes of the project included a proposed set of competencies necessary for all customer service employees in the outdoor recreation industry. These competencies will be used as  standards to develop the curriculum and learning outcomes for future trainings. 

To learn more about the partnership, check out the findings webcast with AARP and OSU.



This year’s research focus will continue to be in diversity, equity, and inclusion including organizational assessments, baseline studies, and workforce trends. Follow our blog and LinkedIn page to stay up to date on our work.

If your association or organization is looking for research support, please contact us.

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