“Stewards of Opportunity” Take Center Stage at 2022 Outdoor Economy Conference

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Over 500 outdoor industry stakeholders will convene April 4-7 to grow a vibrant outdoor recreation economy in Western North Carolina and across the United States.


CHEROKEE, NC—MARCH 3, 2022—The 4th Annual Outdoor Economy Conference kicks off spring in Western North Carolina, April 4-7 at the brand new Cherokee Convention Center in Cherokee, NC. After 2 years as a virtual event, the conference celebrates its return to an in-person gathering with over 65 speakers, 4 distinct program tracks, 8 expert-led off site workshops and excursions, and numerous networking events

This is the largest outdoor industry convening in the Eastern US, with past attendees hailing from 33 US states and 5 countries. The last in-person event in 2019 drew 550 attendees and this year’s event is expected to exceed this, with new tracks tailored to the needs of outdoor industry, conservation, tourism, and economic development professionals, a “Higher Education & the Outdoor Industry Summit,” and a 16,000 square foot industry expo.

This year’s event spans programming in Cherokee, NC, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Nantahala Gorge, and the Fire Mountain Trail System, combining engaging keynotes and panel sessions with immersive experiences showcasing Western North Carolina’s thriving outdoor economy in action. 

“In 2020, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that outdoor recreation brought $9.9 billion in economic impact, and over 120,000 direct jobs to North Carolina” said Noah Wilson, Mountain BizWorks Director of Sector Development. 

“As people look to the outdoors for both mental and physical wellbeing during and after the pandemic era, those numbers are only going to increase. The time is now to make the most of this worldwide participation growth, and ensure we are bringing together stakeholders to connect, collaborate, and ensure sustainable progress for years to come,” he adds.

The 2022 Presenting Sponsor is the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, who will lead the kickoff and closing ceremonies. Presenting partners include WNC: MADE X MTNS, North Carolina Outdoor Industry Recreation Office, Outdoor Gear Builders of WNC, Mountain BizWorks, and Western Carolina University.

“From time immemorial, the Cherokee have had a sacred connection to the land. We are honored to host the Outdoor Economy Conference and share both our culture and our local vision for Eco-Tourism and natural resource stewardship,” says Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed.

Keynote presenters from across the country will anchor each track of the event. HOLO Footwear Founder, Rommel Vega is building an inclusive and sustainable outdoor brand for the masses. Travel Oregon’s head of Destination Development, Scott Bricker, is leading innovations in supporting sustainable destination development for local communities. North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Secretary, D. Reid Wilson, is implementing the largest investment in outdoor recreation in the State of North Carolina’s history. Additional keynotes and full program details are available at outdooreconomy.org.

Attendees include outdoor industry businesses, conservationists and public land managers, academic and workforce development experts, nonprofit and government leaders, entrepreneurs, and professional service providers. The addition of a 16,000 ft Expo space brings the opportunity for direct networking opportunities with companies, organizations, and educational institutions committed to a healthy and sustainable outdoor recreation ecosystem. 

Tickets are available at outdooreconomy.org. Follow Outdoor Economy Conference on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.

About Growing Outdoors Partnership

The Growing Outdoors Partnership (WNC: MADE X MTNS) is working to expand the outdoor industry and economy across North Carolina’s Appalachian region by building vibrant outdoor communities, driving outdoor industry expansion, and increasing market access and recognition. More information about the Partnership and this project can be found at http://madexmtns.com/whywnc.


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