MichAuto > Blog > Economic Development > Outdoor Economy Hits New High in Michigan; Diverse Industry Demonstrates Growth and Resilience

Outdoor Economy Hits New High in Michigan; Diverse Industry Demonstrates Growth and Resilience

November 28, 2023

Kathleen Achtenberg
Nov. 27, 2023
Michigan Business

Michigan’s outdoor recreation economy continues to soar, according to 2022 economic data just released by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Overall, outdoor recreation has a powerful and positive economic impact on the U.S. economy, and the outdoor recreation economy in Michigan grew an impressive 11.8 percent from 2021 to 2022. This year’s report shows that outdoor recreation provided $12.36 billion in value added for Michigan in 2022 and supported nearly 119,000 jobs in a wide range of occupations and skills, including design and manufacturing, retail sales, and hospitality.

In Michigan, outdoor recreation accounted for 2 percent of state GDP and 2.7 percent of all jobs. The 118,993 jobs and $5.63 billion in compensation are both up as well, up 7.2 percent from 2021 in jobs, and up 8.5 percent in compensation.

This is the largest recorded measure for overall outdoor recreation value add to GDP in Michigan since the BEA started calculating the size of the outdoor recreation economy in 2012.

“This data shows how the outdoor industry continues to be a key area of growth and a path to bolster local economies, consistently creating jobs and supporting economic growth,” said Michigan Outdoor Recreation Industry Office Executive Director Brad Garmon. “Trends in key segments of the Michigan and national outdoor recreation economy reflect our ongoing strategy to build on core strengths, such as retail and access facilitation, while better connecting and growing areas such as durable goods manufacturing for the outdoor economy. We will continue working to diversify and improve the overall resilience of the outdoor industry in Michigan and add more high-wage and high growth jobs, especially in underserved rural and urban communities.”

This is the sixth consecutive year that BEA has released government data on the outdoor industry, and the numbers tell a vital story of an economic sector that is diverse, resilient and well-positioned for strategic investment in Michigan.

As part of the MEDC’s efforts to enable the outdoor recreation industry and support it as a state and regional economic development opportunity, the Outdoor Recreation Industry Office also launched a first-of-its-kind tool to make this federal data more available and user friendly. Using this new tool, the BEA data offers insights and trends useful for understanding and making critical regional and local investments.

Snow-related activities show largest gain in value-added growth

In terms of outdoor activities, the top activity by the rank of value-added growth from 2019 to 2022 was in snow activities. Michigan ranked 11th-fastest growing among all states, with an 88 percent growth rate. Other top industries included RVing, boating/fishing, hunting/shooting/trapping, motorcycling/ATVing, climbing/hiking, and camping. Growth and trends in these and other segments can be reviewed and analyzed at www.michiganbusiness.org/industries/outdoor-recreation/industry-data.

For example, according to the new BEA data, the largest contributor to Michigan’s outdoor economy is retail trade, up 29 percent since 2019 and now providing a value add to Michigan’s GDP of $4.1 billion or 33.3 percent of the total outdoor economy. These 46,571 retail jobs are located in outdoor gear shops and small businesses across the state, along with another 41,524 in customer-facing support industries like recreation-based accommodation and food services. These small businesses often serve as the gateway to Michigan’s “Water Winter Wonderland” and have demonstrated an ability to adapt to the growing and changing demands of outdoor recreation users over the past three years.

“The dramatic increase in Michigan’s outdoor recreation economy speaks to Michiganders’ strong connection with our superb natural resources and recreational assets, and the good work of the Outdoor Recreation Industry Office that is leveraging these core strengths,” said Crystal Mountain President Chris MacInnes, co-chair of the Michigan Outdoor Recreation Advisory Council and a member of the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board. “The growth in snow activities is particularly good news for our winter recreation industry, which supports an increase in well-paying jobs throughout Michigan.”

MEDC launches its “support local” campaign every year to remind Michiganders of the importance of supporting small businesses during the holidays and throughout the year. If Michiganders redirected 10 percent of their estimated $33.8 billion in out-of-state ecommerce, Michigan would gain $2.4 billion in gross economic input, according to the Michigan Retailers Association.

Outdoor recreation manufacturing also seeing impressive growth

Again, as confirmed by the BEA data, Michigan is also specifically gaining momentum in outdoor recreation manufacturing. The state saw a 35 percent growth in value added to GDP from outdoor recreation manufacturing from 2019 to 2022. Michigan total outdoor manufacturing ranked fourth nationally in both 2021-2022 employment growth (7 percent) and 2021-2022 total compensation growth (12 percent).

Value added from durable goods manufacturing in Michigan grew 11 percent from 2021 to 2022, which was the 10th best growth rate in the country (sixth in employment growth and fourth in total compensation growth over that period).

“This growth reflects an intentional strategy of our office to build resilience and diversity into the Michigan outdoor sector by activating more of our capabilities in product design, engineering, advanced manufacturing and innovation,” Garmon said. “BEA data has demonstrated that Michigan, with a strong supply base and large outdoor retail spend on vehicles, gear and soft goods (clothing and footwear), we have an opportunity to maintain and grow our economy in these strong categories while actively competing to grow and attract outdoor product design and manufacturing jobs, companies, and programs.”

“Thanks to Michigan’s leadership in mobility design, innovation, and manufacturing, we are in a natural position to lead the nation in employment and investment in outdoor recreation manufacturing,” said MichAuto Executive Director Glenn Stevens Jr. “Michigan’s leadership role in this sector will continue to grow as outdoor recreation vehicles such as boats and off-road vehicles follow the automotive industry into an electrified future. MichAuto applauds the Michigan Outdoor Recreation Industry Office for positioning Michigan at the forefront of outdoor recreation innovation, vehicle technology, and sustainability.”

In October 2022, the Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry moved to the Strategy and Economic Competitiveness division within the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), to continue to strengthen the state’s focus on retaining and attracting outdoor recreation businesses and products.

As part of MEDC, the Outdoor Recreation Industry Office works to develop, promote, and enhance targeted sector support for Michigan’s outdoor recreation industry, which includes the natural assets, outdoor businesses and healthy lifestyles supported by outdoor gear design, testing and manufacturing, outdoor retail trade and wholesale, and access and enjoyment of the outdoors.

Michigan offers more than 8 million acres of publicly accessible lands, 12,000 miles of state-designated trails, and enviable Great Lakes, rivers and streams. These resources provide nearly endless opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy nature, and also provide a rich opportunity to research, test and design the gear, accessories and vehicles that get people outdoors.