Gov. Ralph Northam hopes to make a splash in outdoor recreation industry

By Shayne Dwyer - Reporter

BOTETOURT COUNTY, Va. - Virginia is joining more than a dozen other states across the country putting a focus on growing its economy through the outdoors.

The governor was at Carvins Cove Thursday announcing the new office of outdoor recreation.

We hear of business deals being brokered on the golf course, but it's not every day you see someone paddling their way through it.

"Outdoor recreation has proven to be a recession-proof industry and a driving force in the American economy," said Gov. Ralph Northam. 

Northam came to Carvins Cove Thursday to launch the new Department of Outdoor Recreation.

Seeking to highlight tourism and promote outdoors business is something Pete Eshelman, Roanoke Regional Partnership outdoor branding director, knows well.

"Our rivers and trails are much more than just dirt and water when we strategically cultivate, nurture, protect and invest in our natural assets," said Eshelman. 

Virginia has capitalized on locally made bikes, boats and campers and the new program wants to recruit more manufacturers of outdoor products.

It's a $22 billion a year industry in Virginia alone and the Roanoke Valley wants a big slice of it. Companies like outdoor retail store Orvis want to show others what it's all about.

"We're looking at this as an opportunity to as the governor was talking about, recruiting people into the community, this is not about competition, we want to bring others of like businesses into this region and into this state," said Mike Rigney, Orvis vice president of operations. 

While Virginia may not be the outdoors mecca of the pacific northwest, Northam is happy to paddle the commonwealth into a niche of its own.

"Together, these efforts will further position Virginia as the top outdoor state on the east coast and the natural fit for outdoor business," said Northam. 

So whether it's on the trail, in the woods or on the water -- they're all hoping to make a splash.

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