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Garmon heads Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry

LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this week gathered with state, retail and nonprofit representatives of Michigan’s outdoor recreation industry to showcase the industry’s value and preview the move, this October, to officially join the Confluence of States. The Confluence is a growing national effort to build public awareness about the economic, social and public health benefits of outdoor play and provide a unified voice for the diverse businesses and organizations that make up the industry.

Representatives of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Council, Woosah Outfitters and recreation industry leaders joined Whitmer at the Outside Coffee Co. in Grand Rapids for an “Afternoon for the Outdoors.” It was an opportunity to talk about the state’s booming recreation economy, the changing industry landscape and next steps to ensure Michigan is helping to drive the national discussion on outdoor recreation.

“From the Great Lakes to our expansive forest lands to a vast network of trails, Michigan boasts unparalleled natural resources and countless opportunities for outdoor recreation,” Whitmer said. “Our state is well positioned to be a leader in this new effort to support and promote the outdoor recreation economy. By partnering with a consortium of states dedicated to promoting the outdoor recreation industry, we will make sure that our work aligns with others who share our values in prioritizing conservation and stewardship, health and wellness, growing our workforce and strengthening our economy.”

Chris MacInnes is president of Crystal Mountain Ski Resort and co-chair of the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Council. She described the move to elevate the state nationally as “on target.”

“As owner of an outdoor recreation-based business whose value is tied to the character and quality of the natural environment, Michigan’s decision to sign on to the national Confluence Accords is a big deal that we enthusiastically support,” MacInnes said. “We believe it will give Michigan access to best practices of other members, who also value outdoor resources and understand their connection to a thriving state economy and quality of life.”

Whitmer introduced Brad Garmon as the new director of Michigan’s Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry. Garmon most recently was the interim CEO of the Michigan Environmental Council in Lansing. Before that, he served as the council’s director of Conservation and Emerging Issues, a role created specifically to support and build stronger alliances between outdoor recreation, economic development and natural resource stewardship.

Garmon also has served on Michigan’s State Parks and Outdoor Recreation Blue Ribbon Panel; advised the state on its public land strategy, water strategy and tourism strategic plan; and been a member of the Michigan Heritage Leadership Council and the state’s Pigeon River Country Advisory Council.

“Historically, Michigan has been a national leader in conservation and recreation issues – from inspiring a young Ernest Hemingway to creating the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund that’s become a national model for recreation funding,” Garmon said.

“Now it’s time to apply that tradition of national leadership to the outdoor recreation economy, which is 2.2% of the national GDP already and growing faster than the economy overall,” he said. “Michigan has several major outdoor vehicle, gear and apparel manufacturers headquartered right here that need workers, and lots of small or startup businesses in this space that are positioned to grow. This office will help make that recruitment and growth happen.”

Chris Lampen-Crowell, co-owner of Gazelle Sports and member of the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Council, said the hiring of Garmon as full-time director for Michigan’s Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry is a critical step for integrating, aligning and supporting the state’s diverse outdoor economy.

“As a small business owner with great love for our state’s outdoors, I feel strongly that we not only promote and protect the outdoors, but support the business communities that passionately provide the tools, knowledge and guidance to experience Michigan’s vast outdoor experiences,” Lampen-Crowell said.

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