Reaching for new heights: Coalition promotes outdoor recreation industry
Phil Castle, The Business Times
Shrader knows from personal experience the contributions of the outdoor recreation industry to the Grand Valley economy.Shrader and her husband, Thaddeus, run Bonsai Design, a Grand Junction company that designs and installs projects specifically for outdoor recreation, including ziplines, challenge courses and canopy tours. What started out as a small firm operating out of a basement and a van has grown into a venture headquartered in the historic Union Station downtown that employs the couple and more than 30 other people.
Sarah Shrader knows from personal experience the contributions of the outdoor recreation industry to the Grand Valley economy.
Shredder and her husband, Thaddeus, run Bonsai Design, a Grand Junctiion company that designs and installs projects specifically for outdoor recreation, including zippiness, challenge courses and canopy tours. What started out as a small firm operating out of a basement and a van has grown into a venture headquartered in the historic Union Station downtown that employs the couple and more than 30 other people.
Bonsai Design constitutes a prime example of the potential for companies involved in outdoor recreation to generate business and create jobs, she says. “We think so.”
That’s why the Shraders also are involved in a new coalition to promote outdoor recreation businesses by supporting the efforts of existing companies, recruiting new companies and marketing the area as destination for a variety of activities.
The undertaking is an important one, she says, given that by one estimate, outdoor recreation businesses and tourism contribute more than $300 million annually to the economy and account for more than 2,000 jobs. “It’s not just a fluff industry, a lifestyle industry. It’s an economic engine.”
The Grand Valley Outdoor Recreation Coalition was established earlier this year in the aftermath of a series of meetings of representatives from outdoor recreation businesses at first for focus groups convened as part of branding research on the area. Informal meetings followed and then more formal discussions of the collective issues and challenges facing the industry, Shrader says.
The coalition since has grown into a group with more than 50 members that includes such manufacturers as Bonsai Design, Leitner Poma and Mountain Racing Products; such retailers as Motorcycle Accessories, Mountain Khakis and Rapid Creek Cycles and Paddlesports; and such service providers as All Metals Welding, Grand Valley Climbing and Powderhorn Mountain Resort. The membership also includes organizations involved in outdoor recreation, among them the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association, Grand Valley Trails Alliance and Mesa Land Trust.
The mission of the coalition, Shrader says, is to promote and expand the outdoor recreation industry and, in turn, the local economy.
One way to do that, she says, would be to follow the initial recommendations of branding research and a competitive location assessment conducted for Mesa County and the City of Grand Junction.
A number of attributes were identified as potential selling points, including the prospect the Grand Valley offers a place where people can actually realize their expectations for a lifestyle offering outdoor recreation and scenic beauty. “We want to make Grand Junction a place where play want to stay because they want to play here,” Shrader says.
Further recreational development along the Colorado River and efforts to enable more people to safely ride their bicycles back and forth to work would help, she says.
As for recruiting new businesses to come to the area, the most likely prospects are smaller firms with fewer than 50 employees.
More funding is needed, though, for economic development efforts — a level at least equal to that spent on the Grand Junction Visitor & Convention Bureau.
But even as the coalition joins in efforts to bring additional outdoor recreation businesses to the area, the group will promote the contributions of existing businesses, Shrader says. She cited as one example the success of Grand Valley Climbing, a business that opened in Grand Junction a year ago.
Tyson Younger, operations manager at Grand Valley Climbing, says the 14,000 square foot facility boasts some of the tallest indoor climbing walls in Colorado as well as exercise equipment and a retail outlet for climbing gear. The Academy of Yoga recently merged with the operation and relocated its yoga studio there. The business employs a total of 20 full- and part-time employees.
Younger says owner David Cummings recognized a need for a larger and newer indoor climbing gym in the Grand Valley and responded by opening a state-of-the-art facility for customers. “Build it and they will come. Build it really well, and they won’t leave,” Younger says.
Grand Valley Climbing constitutes an example of the potential for outdoor recreation businesses in the area, he says. “If we can succeed with this climbing gym, other people could bring in other facilities.”
Meanwhile, Bonsai Design continues to experience rapid growth as the business designs and constructs projects across the United States, Shrader says.
Colorado ski resorts have become an especially good customer, she says, in adding attractions for summer visitors that include ziplines, challenge courses and other types of aerial adventures.
While businesses like Grand Valley Climbing and Bonsai Design add to the significant economic benefits of the outdoor recreation industry, Shrader believes there’s ample room for the sector to grow.
And the newly formed Grand Valley Outdoor Recreation Coalition can help promote that growth, she says.