Outdoor Economy Conference Returns to N.C.

The Outdoor Economy Conference will return to Western North Carolina (WNC) for a second year on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. After selling out in its inaugural year, the conference has doubled in size and grown in scope with the help of the new Growing Outdoors Partnership, a regional economic development initiative focused on the outdoors sector. This year’s event will be hosted at the Crowne Plaza Resort in Asheville, N.C., naturally adjacent to zip lines, mountain bike trails and other outdoor amenities, and is poised to draw more than 500 industry influencers.

“Outdoor recreation is growing nationwide and brings $28 billion in annual economic impact to our state, making us the sixth largest outdoor economy in the nation,” said Noah Wilson, program director for Growing Outdoors. “This conference is bringing together the entire mountain region of North Carolina to connect, collaborate, and harness these opportunities.”

This year’s attendees will include outdoor industry businesses of all types, conservationists and public land managers, and academic and workforce development experts, along with government leaders, financiers, and professional service providers.


Tickets are available for purchase through the conference website at outdooreconomy.org. Reduced-price “trendsetter” tickets are available through Aug. 31.

A sampling of speakers include:

  • Sarah Shrader, who will share how outdoor recreation is revitalizing the mining towns along the western slope of Colorado, and how these strategies are applicable to North Carolina mountain communities.
  • Kenji Haroutunian, former director of the Outdoor Retailer trade show, who will speak about the outdoor industry’s movement to ensure that the outdoors is more equitable and accessible.
  • Amy Allison, marketing manager for Eagle’s Nest Outfitters (ENO) and a co-founder of the Outdoor Gear Builders of WNC, who will be leading a panel on how the tastes and attitudes of outdoor consumers are changing, and what brands and communities can do to effectively engage them.
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“WNC is the biggest outdoor industry hub east of the Rockies,” said Allison. “Our 40-plus local companies are both making extraordinary gear and making a positive impact on their places. We’re working hard to make sure that this event meets the needs of the industry as well as those of the communities our members live and build their businesses in.”

The conference will include five tracks, allowing participants to focus on the topics most relevant to them. The Outdoor Gear Builders will also be hosting an on-site Gear Expo, where attendees will get hands-on with locally made gear and sample tasty treats from outdoor-inspired food and beverage makers.

The pre-conference reception on Oct. 9 will feature an Outdoor Biz Pitch competition starring the eight growing brands in the new Waypoint Accelerator program – the East Coast’s first outdoor business accelerator.

Western Carolina University (WCU) founded the Outdoor Economy Conference in fall 2018 and remains a core partner on both the conference as well as the overall Growing Outdoors Partnership.

“WCU is excited about the 2019 Outdoor Economy Conference. It’s an excellent opportunity to showcase regional innovation and creative workforce solutions, as well as to make connections that keep our positive, collaborative momentum going,” said Arthur Salido, the university’s executive director of community and economic engagement and innovation.

Discounted “trendsetter” tickets for the 2019 conference will be available online through Aug. 31. To purchase tickets and get more information about the conference, sessions, and speakers, visit outdooreconomy.org. fffffffffff