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Tourism is New Hampshire’s second-largest industry–if you combine the state’s smart manufacturing and high technology sectors (SMHT). It’s also a clear point of intersection between government and industry, with the state maintaining a number of parks, campgrounds, and historical sites, and nearby businesses in turn catering to visitors’ needs. Given this close relationship, the state provides funding to market New Hampshire to potential tourists. Some of the heaviest marketing efforts are concentrated in Boston, Philadelphia and New York City. Canadian tourists, especially Quebeçois, also make up a sizable number of New Hampshire’s visitors. From the business perspective, “tourism” is a broad term. It encompasses hotels, resorts, restaurants, retail, and arts and entertainment, among other things. So while statewide reports may indicate overall restaurant or retail sales are up or down, the story might be very different in New Hampshire’s main tourism communities. For these places, weather, gas prices, currency exchange rates, and whether they draw visitors for outdoor activities, site-seeing, or shopping could all be factors.Summary provided by StateImpact NH

N.H. Senate Considers New Position To Boost Outdoor Recreation

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

New Hampshire has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to outdoor recreation opportunities. But some recreation groups and business leaders say the state isn’t doing enough to boost the recreation industry. They’re supporting legislative efforts to create an Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry Development.

The Senate’s Executive Departments and Administration Committee heard testimony on the bill, SB 234, last week.  Among those testifying in favor of the bill were Taylor Caswell, the commissioner of the Department of Business and Economic Affairs in which this new position would reside, and Rob Riley, the president of the Northern Forest Center.

Riley, whose organization works with communities in the Northern Forest that spans Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York, spoke with NHPR’s Peter Biello about what the new position might mean for outdoor recreation in the state.

Here are the interview highlights, which have been edited for length and clarity:

On what the director of Outdoor Recreation Industry Development would do:

As far as we understand from the process of the of working with the New Hampshire BEA (Business and Economic Affairs), is really to focus their efforts and coordinate among other state departments and the private sector, and really mobilizing the private industry, advancing marketing of the state. But really looking at how recreation fits into the broader suite of economic development across the state.

On a project that the new director might be able to tackle:

For example, we're involved with a new initiative called The Borderlands. It's a network of mountain bike trail networks. Three of them happen to be in New Hampshire: Parker Mountain, for example. I can imagine the state supporting us and some of our broader marketing efforts to bring riders from the Boston area. If we find that they were encumbered by some legislative issues that we're not aware of, we can reach out to this individual and say, ‘How do we navigate the state system?’ We’d also look at how we aggregate different programs that are within the state, but are across different departments. Maybe even potentially on the federal level, we would ask this person to help us look at facilitating those resources, technical assistance, marketing, and alignment across the public and private sector.

On Colorado having a similar position in place:

I think one of the primary evidences of [Colorado’s] successful implementation is really when you think about Colorado you think about outdoor recreation as a basis for both their lifestyle and their economy. And that, in and of itself, is attracting businesses and people to participate in that landscape. If we can do that the same here, then we can start really addressing some of the socio-demographic issues that we’re challenged by.

On what a return on investment for this position would look like in a few years:

Again, it goes back to public-private partnership. I think that what we have 10 years down the line is a more aligned regulatory and use perspective. We also have better inter-state communication. But I also think that we have more substantive recreational built-out assets in the North Country. And I think it's also about this notion of how do we attract more people to rural places who want to take advantage of the recreational assets in that region. And I hope that we see some different trends in rural place as a result of that. 

Peter Biello is the host of All Things Considered and Writers on a New England Stage at New Hampshire Public Radio. He has served as a producer/announcer/host of Weekend Edition Saturday at Vermont Public Radio and as a reporter/host of Morning Edition at WHQR in Wilmington, North Carolina.
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