Innovate Alabama forms Council on Outdoor Recreation

Alabama residents and visitors have long recognized and enjoyed the state’s natural resources, and a new group of leaders wants to leverage those same assets to help benefit and grow the state.

Innovate Alabama has established the Council on Outdoor Recreation to advise the board of directors on strategies to achieve three primary goals: expand Alabama’s outdoor recreation industry, enhance the state’s attractiveness for a skilled workforce, and yield substantial returns for rural and urban communities for the enjoyment of current and future Alabamians.

The council is supported by the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Roundtable, comprised of 19 stakeholders that represent diverse and comprehensive perspectives from various regions of the state and outdoor recreation fields. The roundtable, which met for the first time November 30, will provide recommendations for capitalizing on Alabama’s recreational assets as innovative economic development tools.

“Made up of some of our state’s strongest outdoor recreation experts, the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Roundtable brings together centuries of combined knowledge in the outdoors to provide strategic recommendations on the application of outdoor recreation to enhance Alabamians’ quality of life and support economic development in rural and urban communities,” said Chris Blankenship, Alabama’s commissioner of Conservation and Natural Resources and the chair of the Council on Outdoor Recreation. “We are thrilled to welcome these advisory members who will ensure that all regions of the state and outdoor recreation sectors have a seat at the table as we develop these recommendations.”

In 2021, Innovate Alabama joined forces with former U.S. Secretary of State and Alabama native Condoleezza Rice and Stanford University’s Hoover Institution to conduct extensive research into fostering a robust, inclusive economy in Alabama. The research, which culminated in a final report, highlighted the opportunity to leverage Alabama’s natural resources to help attract innovators and encourage them to grow roots in the state. Out of that research, the Council on Outdoor Recreation was formed.

“A thriving business ecosystem is holistic,” said Kellie Clark, CEO of AppThink and a roundtable member. “It considers the interest, hobbies, and well-being of entrepreneurs and their families. People build businesses in Alabama, in part, because of our outdoor recreation assets and landscape diversity. Our natural resources – a true advantage that helps us continue to recruit and retain top talent – differentiates us from other innovation-forward states.”

“As an outdoor enthusiast and innovation advocate, I am proud to serve alongside fellow subject matter experts who are all focused on creating inclusive, thoughtful solutions through the lens of outdoor recreation that will enrich our innovation ecosystem,” Clark said.

Innovate Alabama is working to leverage the state’s broad array of outdoor assets, such as local and state parks, diverse landscapes, and other natural resources, in an effort to showcase and cultivate Alabama’s unique offerings. Advocates say greater investment in these assets, which make Alabama special, will lure and encourage entrepreneurs, both local and from other states, to put down roots in the state.

“We are seeing great success by aligning innovation with our outdoor recreation efforts,” said John Kvach, executive director of Singing River Trail and a roundtable member. “Thanks to Alabama’s unique outdoor landscape and outdoor recreation assets, we have the potential to strengthen regional bonds between rural and urban communities to create a thriving statewide innovation ecosystem.”

Members of the Council on Outdoor Recreation and the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Roundtable include:

Council on Outdoor Recreation

Outdoor Recreation Advisory Roundtable

Republished with the permission of The Alabama NewsCenter.

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