Findings from a survey strongly support the notion of the outdoors being a key player in Colorado's economy.
Released Wednesday by the Colorado Outdoor Business Alliance, the survey conducted by an independent research group asked 201 business leaders across the state about reasons to locate here. Seventy-one percent agreed that outdoor recreation was "extremely important" or "very important." That's compared to 69 percent who said the same for having access to a skilled and educated workforce, and 34 percent who said the same for tax credits and incentives.
"This is good for anybody in the office of economic development," said Luis Benitez, head of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office. "This helps anybody going out to recruit any business. You have to have a value proposition when you go out and talk to companies, and this is part of that proposition. Now we've got a hard number we can point to."
The survey also asked business leaders if public lands access helped them attract and retain a quality workforce, and 52 percent strongly agreed, with 32 percent agreeing somewhat and 12 percent disagreeing. As for protecting access to the outdoors, 63 percent said the impact on businesses was "very positive" or "somewhat positive."
David Leinweber, owner of Angler's Covey in Colorado Springs and head of the first-year Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance, hopes the survey encourages city leaders to take their natural surroundings more seriously.
"This is really important, and it's not just something for vacationers. This is a key factor in bringing key personnel to this region and really improve our workforce," he said.
Currently, he said, the alliance group comprised of fellow outfitters and advocates is in the process of creating a website that would highlight lesser-known aspects of the area's outdoors - aspects that might not appear in brochures at city offices.
"I don't think we've done a great job in promoting all the opportunies we have," said Leinweber, who is quick to point out his observations of other cities aggressively doing so. "I think Colorado Springs, from its origins, has been known for outdoor recreation, and we've kind of taken it for granted, and we've allowed other communities to catch up to us or surpass us."
Last year provided insight into how locals feel about the subject. Ballot Issue 2D, allowing the city to keep $2.1 million of revenue exceeding constitutional limits and spend it on repairing trails, was passed to the approval of 71 percent of voters.
So far, the role of the outdoors on local economies has been "unspoken," Benitez said. He didn't think the survey findings would surprise city leaders.
"But," he said, "everybody loves metrics."
Contact Seth Boster: 636-0332