As the call to “opt outside” echoed throughout our state — the post-Thanksgiving tradition of reconnecting with the outdoors instead of Black Friday lines — Michiganders filled parks, trails, and open spaces celebrating Michigan’s outdoor culture, the businesses and organizations who support it.

Now and throughout the year, Michiganders embrace outdoor experiences, demonstrating the strength and depth of our state’s outdoor economy.

The power of Michigan’s outdoor economy was heralded by a recent release from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) on the impact of outdoor recreation on our state.  In 2022, outdoor recreation contributed $12.4 billion to our state’s economy, supporting 119,000 jobs and generating $5 billion in wages.

​This current release establishes a new benchmark for Michigan since the BEA started calculating the size of the outdoor recreation economy in 2017. It demonstrates the tremendous economic and social value the outdoors has for Michiganders. Being outside is good for physical and mental well-being, helps us connect with family and friends, and is the foundation for a powerful stewardship ethic and a passionate community of advocates.

Critical factors in how the outdoor recreation industry contributed to Michigan’s economy in 2022:

  • Outdoor recreation made up 2.2% of Michigan’s economy
  • 119,000 people work in the outdoor industry in Michigan, a 7% increase from 2021
  • Michigan’s outdoor recreation industry added 10,000 jobs
  • Manufacturing of outdoor recreation gear and equipment contributed $1.9 billion
  • Outdoor Retail contributed nearly $4 billion to Michigan’s economy

Top activities that contributed to Michigan’s GDP in 2022:

  • RVing, Boating, and Fishing — $1.1 billion
  • Hunting/Shooting/Trapping — $304 million
  • Motorcycling/ATVing — $278 million
  • Climbing/Hiking/Tent Camping — $149 million​

With outdoor participation ever-growing, it’s even more essential than ever for us to invest and advocate for statewide policies that bolster access to the outdoors, expand trail networks, and safeguard our open spaces to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy, explore, and benefit from our state’s unparalleled outdoor resources.

“These numbers are more than just figures on a page; they are an invitation to appreciate the significance of outdoor recreation in our lives,” shared Nichole Fisher, Executive Director at mParks. “Michigan’s parks, trails, and open spaces have long been sanctuaries, offering solace and becoming economic pillars for our communities.”

At a national level, these new numbers show outdoor recreation generates $1.1 trillion in gross economic output, 3.2% of U.S. wage and salary employment, and 4.98 million jobs. This means the outdoor recreation economy contributes more to the U.S. economy than mining, utilities, farming and ranching, and chemical products manufacturing. This is the first time the outdoor economy has surpassed the one trillion-dollar mark.

“If there’s one thing to take away from today’s BEA presentation, it’s this: the state of the outdoor recreation economy is strong, and sustained investment in outdoor recreation and our shared public lands and waters pays dividends for our local and national economies and quality of life,” said Jessica Turner, president of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR). “Our industry continues to provide benefits to communities across the country – big, small, urban, and rural alike. To ensure that this success is sustainable and that our public lands and waters will continue to be accessible to all Americans for generations to come, we will continue to work together with leaders on the passage of America’s Outdoor Recreation Act by the end of this year. We are thrilled to once again see the data reflect what we hear everyday, that outdoor recreation is not a nice to have — but a necessity for healthy people, places, and economies.”

Open Spaces Open Minds: A Call for Access and Investment

The consistency of these annual reports from the BEA signals a clear return on investing in our natural spaces, public health, and fostering an environment conducive to entrepreneurship, small business growth, and workforce quality of life.

“We continue to recognize that our state’s trails are vital economic engines, not just pathways for recreation. These statistics reinforce the importance of developing and preserving these spaces, not just for their inherent beauty but for their undeniable role in fueling economic growth and opportunity,” added Andrea LaFontaine, Executive Director at Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance.

Amidst changing landscapes and evolving economies, the enduring presence of local public spaces stands as a testament to resilience, offering recreation, economic fortitude, and community resilience.

“Michigan has more acres of public land than any state east of the Mississippi, with more opportunities for deep partnerships between business and conservation.  Our economy is driven by close-to-home open space that has been, and must continue to be, a constant source of wellness and enjoyment,” emphasized Jonathan Jarosz, Executive Director at Heart of the Lakes.

Jarosz continued, “Our state has the people and the assets to be one of the top five outdoor economies in the country.  A coordinated strategy between state government, private business, and nonprofit supporters will ensure economic stability and a high quality of life for generations to come.”

For those seeking solace, adventure, or economic opportunity, the BEA’s 2022 numbers underscore the immense value of Michigan’s outdoors. As Michigan continues to celebrate and cherish our heritage, and our outdoor industry, the economic and personal benefits they offer can be a model for the rest of the country.

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