Skip to main content

Green Jobs: Michigan's new Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry plants seeds for continued economic growth

Group of kayakers in red kayaks on the water.As part of Great Lakes and Fresh Water Week, MI Environment is featuring several articles from the recently-released State of the Great Lakes report. Today's article by Brad Garmon, of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, looks at green jobs and Michigan's new Outdoor Recreation Industry Office.

Michigan's Outdoor Recreation Industry Office was created by Governor Whitmer and stems from a growing awareness of outdoor recreation's full contribution to Michigan's economy, pegged by the federal government's Bureau of Economic Analysis at $10.1 billion per year and growing.

From 2012-17, Michigan's outdoor recreation-based GDP grew 18 percent -twice as fast as the overall state GDP. The Office was created with the specific mission of developing, promoting and enhancing Michigan's outdoor recreation lifestyle industry. It is housed within the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and collaborates closely with the staff of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to grow, retain and attract outdoor recreation companies, jobs and investment.

The first goal of the Office is to expand the conception of the outdoor economy from only tourism or hospitality jobs to embrace and build on opportunities in the design and production of outdoor recreation vehicles, gear and equipment - areas where Michigan has a strong competitive advantage.

The outdoor recreation industry supports more than 120,000 jobs and contributes more than $4.3 billion in direct private sector compensation to the state overall, and a major portion of those are in the retail sector - supporting the purchase of shoes, boats and gear. But nearly 6,000 of those Michigan outdoor recreation jobs are in outdoor recreation-related manufacturing - making those boats and gear. Those jobs provide 10 percent of the industry's total compensation in the state. Michigan's capabilities in product design, advanced and lightweight materials, and advanced manufacturing will be critical pieces in growing this industry, along with targeting some support to the innovators and the makers who are going to be designing and tinkering with the gear and vehicles that will shape the way we play and get outdoors in the years ahead.

In the economic contribution from boating and fishing, for example, Michigan is ranked fifth in the country; in recreational vehicles it's ranked seventh, suggesting opportunities to build on Michigan's strengths while celebrating our outdoor assets. From inventing the modern snowboard, outboard motor and synthetic fly fishing line, to designing the new Ford Bronco and the world's first all-electric adventure vehicle, Michigan has always been the place to design, develop and deliver the tools and gear of the great outdoors. The goal is to make sure the future of outdoor recreation is designed and produced here in the Great Lakes State.

Brad tells us June is also Outdoor Recreation Month. Check out President Biden's proclamation.

Photo caption: Group of kayakers on the water.

Like this content? Follow us on Twitter at @MichiganEGLE or on

Take a short survey and let us know what you think about MI Environment.