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Econ 919: The economic impact of outdoor rec

  The snow is all but gone and salmon are already lining up to take your lure — yes, it’s springtime on The Kenai, and that means the start of … construction season. But that’s not why we’re hear today, we’re here to learn about the economics of outdoor recreation, that other thing we do in the summer. 

Nolan Clouda is the director of the University of Alaska Anchorage Center for Economic Development. At this year’s Industry Outlook Forum presented by the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District, Clouda spoke about the impact, and surprising size of the outdoor recreation industry.


“You know, when we talk about outdoor recreation and I think you know, being Alaskan I think we live and breathe out door rec., I think we we don't even really stop to talk about it or think about it necessarily that often it's just part of part of how we live and I think a big reason why so many of us live here or so many of us you know chose to come back or to stay here is because we like the character of Alaska that lets us get outside. 

“So you know, you can you can kind of pick your sport, your superlative outdoor recreation is a huge thing in Alaska. We lead the country in all number of categories when it comes to it. But how does this translate into economic development? We usually think of this as, you know, a pastime or maybe maybe public health benefits to being more active. But why do we care about it from an economic standpoint? 

"Well, we looked at that subject and, and you know, when we put together a number of different sources of data, and we looked at how many people are participating in a number of given activities in a typical year in Alaska. And when they, when they do those activities, especially when they go on trips away from home, there's data out there on how much they spend in the course of doing that, because people buy groceries and they buy fuel and they and they go to restaurants they pay for lodging they pay for tours, both residents and visitors like. 

"When you add up all of that activity, and and do some some economic modeling on it, what you end up with is a pretty astronomical number that that $3.2 billion is spent on those activities in Alaska. And that spending ripples throughout the economy, that creates 28,000 direct jobs roughly. And then the secondary effect of that is, is that a larger number of jobs that are created as money continues to percolate. And that leads to a number of about 38,000 jobs in the state economy. 

“There is overlap with this and with visitor numbers, but but they're not identical, we have a large number of residents who engage in these activities and spend money in the course of doing it as well as visitors. So this is pretty big impacts if you look at it as a share of all the jobs in the state, that's about one job in in 10 that is in some way tied to the to the money that circulates as a result of people in state going on their trips and spending money and and visitors coming in spending money on outdoor trips as well. It's a pretty significant number you know there's only, in the whole like banking and finance sector in Alaska, is only about 12,000 jobs for instance. So this is a pretty significant share. 

“We found data on about 12 different activities — these are sorted from like the highest participation down to the down to the lowest and there are some activities that are not quite included here. Like I have a friend who likes to surf the bore tide in Turnagain Arm and we don't have, you know, surfing here. But for instance, these are the most common ones. Everything from wildlife viewing all the way to a TV and motorized use. hiking, fishing tend to be some of the more popular ones.”

Nolan Clouda of the UAA’s Center for Economic Development.

Our numbers this week come from the current issue of Alaska Economic Trends, a publication of the Alaska Department of Labor. But to be honest, the actual numbers are kinda dull compared to describing our legislative districts in the sizes of other places. 

For example, Rep. Ben Carter’s House District 29 is the size — in square miles — of Puerto Rico. Rep. Gary Knopp’s District 30 is the size of Catalina Island, while Sen. Peter Micciche’s District O is the size of another island, Cyprus. That is dwarfed by Sen. Gary Steven’s District P, which is the size of Hungary. Yes, the whole country.

And that’s all for this week’s Econ 919, tune us in online any time at KDLL dot org. For Shaylon Cochran, I’m Jay Barrett.

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