Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
Sunday, April 7, 2013
Runners from across the United States and several countries will flock to Roanoke for America’s toughest road race — the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon on April 20. Along with the recently opened River Rock climbing gym, expanded greenway system and new outdoor events, the Roanoke region is making progress on an economic development vision — to leverage our outdoor assets to enhance quality of life, which will attract talent, jobs and investment to the region.
Along with education and transportation systems, the outdoors — trails, parks, greenways, lakes and rivers — are building blocks of a vibrant economy. A Knight Foundation study called Soul of the Community says social offerings, openness and aesthetics are factors that attach people to their community. The higher the level of attachment, the stronger the economic growth.
In the Roanoke region, the outdoors is the venue that stimulates social interaction and welcomes all in a beautiful stage. It’s also a laboratory that’s inventing our economic future.
The strategy is paying off. At least 2,500 people are employed in the Roanoke and New River valleys directly engaged in providing outdoor recreational services or in manufacturing, distribution, retail and services for the outdoor market.
Nationally, outdoor recreation is an economic powerhouse, generating $646 billion in consumer spending and 6.1 million direct jobs every year. In Virginia, it means $12.6 billion in consumer spending, 138,000 jobs, $3.9 billion in wages and $923 million in state and local tax revenue.
Then consider the direct economic impact from tourism. According to the National Park Service, visitors spend $541 million while enjoying national parks in Virginia, leading to 8,000 jobs.
Our outdoors also attracts attention for us. The Blue Ridge Marathon, with an economic impact of $1.06 million so far, has been cited for its world-class course by the Weather Channel, USA Today and others.
The outdoors remain the nation’s top recreational activity, bringing people together and creating a sense of community — which in turn fosters pride and social interaction that can lead to business partnerships, entrepreneurship and jobs.
Young talent — the future of our region — is attracted most to the outdoor lifestyle. Marketing our amenities makes it easier for employers to hire the best and brightest, from tech-savvy start-ups to family-oriented professionals, to help grow our population.
From 2005 to 2010, during a time of expansion of the greenway system and an increase in outdoor marketing, citizens in the Roanoke metro area ages 20 to 34 grew by 4.9 percent, higher than the region’s overall population growth (4.2 percent), according to Census data.
Here’s why it makes sense for the Roanoke region to embrace the outdoors:
That’s why the Roanoke region is so desirable. Our 600 miles of hiking and biking trails, Smith Mountain Lake, James River, 24 miles of urban greenway, the second-largest municipal park in the nation (Carvins Cove), the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway all distinguish this region as a great place to live, work and play.
Four years ago, we were the first region participating at major outdoor industry trade shows. Now, Asheville, N.C; Boise, Idaho; Bend, Ore., and others have followed our lead. We’re clearly on to something.
Louisville, Ky., is investing $125 million to create parks with active recreation space. We already have many of the assets others covet and try to replicate. It doesn’t take much to activate them, but we need to do more to stay ahead of the competition and increase the economic impact of the outdoors.
Other regions have figured this out and they’re competing with us for jobs and investment. The state of Utah has an outdoor recreation vision as part of its economic strategy. Michigan is including outdoor recreation in its business recruitment.
We have a real head start. The time is now for everyone to recognize our advantages, embrace the vision and invest in the outdoors as a building block of economic prosperity.
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