“We are fortunate to live in a state that is blessed with such natural beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities. From the mountains of Northeast Alabama, through the River Region and Black Belt in the center of the state, to the beaches and bays of the Gulf Coast, Alabama has something outdoors for everyone.”
Commissioner Chris Blankenship, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, who also serves as the Council on Outdoor Recreation chair, believes that Alabama can capitalize on its outdoor amenities to grow and attract new visitors, residents, and businesses. The challenge is in the “how.” Alongside fellow experts, 13 recommendations have been made to Innovate Alabama as the council seeks to expand, promote, and protect Alabama’s outdoor assets.
Blankenship states, “Outdoor recreation can be a differentiator for us in Alabama as we work to attract and retain talent, and we need to market what we have to the world!” Below is a list of the 2023 recommendations made by the Council on Outdoor Recreation to Innovate Alabama:
- Build a comprehensive, regularly updated inventory of all Alabama outdoor recreation assets.
- Create a website that’s a central hub for all outdoor recreation assets in Alabama.
- Develop a comprehensive, long-term outdoor recreation asset branding, marketing and advertising plan for the state of Alabama.
- Engage with state government agencies to improve and streamline the process for obtaining existing outdoor recreation funds.
- Establish a permanent Council on Outdoor Recreation within Innovate Alabama.
- Hire staff and establish programs and within Innovate Alabama that are focused on and dedicated to promoting outdoor recreation.
- Identify ways to cooperate with other states, cities and organizations to boost awareness about our Alabama outdoor recreation assets.
- Organize and host an annual Alabama outdoor recreation summit/conference.
- Develop a comprehensive, competitive analysis of what other similar states are doing well and a plan for replicating or improving upon their successes in utilizing outdoor recreation assets to retain and attract talent.
- Leverage existing studies to guide planning and implementation efforts.
- Bolster economic development recruitment efforts by ensuring that economic development partners have marketing assets to use in touting Alabama’s outdoor recreation resources in their pitches to both in-state and out-of-state businesses and entrepreneurs.
- Identify large, high-profile, high-impact development opportunities, and actively recruit developers for those specific projects, possibly offering tailored economic incentives or tax credits.
- Advocate for long-term, dedicated, sustainable funding in-state budgets for maintaining, enhancing and coordinating the promotion of outdoor recreation assets.
In August 2022 the Innovate Alabama Board of Directors formed the Council on Outdoor Recreation with three primary goals in mind: expand Alabama’s outdoor recreation industry, enhance the state’s attractiveness for a skilled workforce, and yield substantial returns for both urban and rural communities.