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State to offer new grants to propel outdoor recreation employment

The Outdoor Recreation Industry office has initiated a new grant program to help outdoor recreation companies and nonprofits recover from the pandemic.

The new Outdoor Recreation Industry Impact Fund is intended to help the outdoor industry sector hire and retain workers. OREC is part of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. 

​”We are continuing to bring good-paying jobs to Colorado’s robust outdoor recreation industry, boosting our strong economy and making sure Coloradans can find careers they love around our world-class outdoors,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a press statement. ​

“Colorado has seen one of the fastest recoveries in the nation, and the opportunity to direct these funds to the outdoor recreation industry will help ensure that this important sector continues to thrive and add jobs across the state,” said Eve Lieberman, OEDIT executive director. 

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis said in its reports that outdoor recreation accounted for 2.7% of Colorado’s economy and 4.3% of the state’s employment, or 125,244 jobs, in 2021. That represents an increase in employment of 13.4% over 2020, which is just ahead of the national average of 13.1%.

Conor Hall, who leads the Outdoor Recreation division, said that the state has seen growth in outdoor recreation employment but also “a consistent need for support among outdoor recreation employers as they continue their efforts to steward our natural resources while also creating more equitable employment in the outdoors.”

Challenges faced by outdoor industry employers include increasing public interest in the outdoors at the same time that rising operating costs and costs of living make hiring more difficult, OREC said in announcing the new grant program, which builds upon the June 2022 Colorado State Outdoor Recreation Grant. 

The new Outdoor Recreation Industry Impact Fund will provide $1.8 million in state and local fiscal recovery money, part of the American Rescue Plan Act, to support payroll needs. Grants of up to $100,000 are available to cover hiring and staff retention for outdoor recreation when the hiring entity can demonstrate negative economic impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications must be submitted by Feb. 28 at the grant website.

Source: BizWest