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Pennsylvania launches Outdoor Business Alliance

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(The Center Square) — Pennsylvania has a newly created Office of Outdoor Recreation, and now the state is granting $200,000 to launch an Outdoor Business Alliance that will spur broad-based cooperation in the industry.

“We need to make sure that we invest, we need to make sure that outdoor rec is central to that,” Gov. Josh Shapiro said on Wednesday at Gilson Snow, a ski and snowboard company in Selinsgrove. “The stronger our outdoor recreation economy is, the stronger our main streets are, and the stronger our towns are all across Pennsylvania.”

The alliance, he argued, would help Pennsylvania companies source from each other and collaborate rather than going out-of-state. Businesses would benefit from having “a one-stop shop for questions related to regulations and marketing.”

“It is going to help them match the national market,” Shapiro said. “It’s gonna open up more national markets to Pennsylvania companies.”

The goal is for state officials to support what’s already getting done.

“We don’t reach in and tell folks on the ground what to do, but we do try to reach in and complement the good work that’s happening,” Shapiro said.

His administration is betting big on outdoor recreation, launching the OOR last year under the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Last spring, DCNR Secretary Cindy Dunn argued that the outdoor recreation economy’s potential was “bigger than (natural) gas, bigger than a lot of industries combined.”

It’s also part of Shapiro’s much-repeated efforts to outpace neighboring states.

“We gotta help our businesses get moving more quickly, and government in the past has been an impediment to that. Now we are working as your partners,” Shapiro said. “We have got to catch up to other states.”

Catching up starts with developing what the commonwealth already has: Dunn said Pennsylvania’s nature is rife with inspiration and hope.

“That’s the secret sauce that Pennsylvania really has with our parks, our forests, our mountains, our trails,” she said. “From the big rivers in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia to the trail systems we have across the state…these natural assets are the backbone of the outdoor recreation industry.”

The alliance, Dunn said, is a way to find outdoor-connected businesses and plug them into new opportunities, from ice cream shops to beer companies and “the creative spirit of the artists that are so involved in outdoor recreation.”

“These businesses drive our economy forward,” OOR Director Nathan Reigner said. “They provide family-sustaining jobs and give us brands and companies that we can be proud of here in Pennsylvania.”