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Outdoor recreation industry worth half-trillion dollars

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Jeremy Hobson: There are a lot of industries that say protecting the environment hurts the bottom line. But a report out today spotlights one industry whose fortunes are directly tied to the environment.

Marketplace’s Jeff Tyler reports.

Jeff Tyler: The new report by the Outdoor Industry Association finds that, every year, Americans spend nearly $650 billion on outdoor recreation. Spokesperson I Ling Thompson puts that in perspective.

I Ling Thompson: Americans spent more money on outdoor recreation than they did on pharmaceuticals, on motor vehicles, and on household utilities every year.

And only about 20 percent of the money is spent on stuff like backpacks and bikes. Jim Klug is with Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures in Bozeman, Mont.

Jim Klug: While the money that’s spent on gear and equipment is certainly significant, the real economic impact occurs when people get outside and use the equipment that they’ve bought.

Most of the dollars spent on the great outdoors go to things like guides, hotels and restaurants. Even companies that don’t profit directly find that proximity to the outdoors can be a competitive advantage. Consider Rally Software in Boulder, Colo.

Jon Landau: Almost every candidate that we talk to has multiple offers and it is absolutely a battle to get the top talent.

Jon Landau is Rally’s director of recruiting. He recently interviewed a job candidate now working in Silicon Valley.

Landau: He said he’s tired of the rat race in Silicon Valley. He’s looking to have access to the outdoors, but yet still work for a compelling, innovative technology company.

Like the tech sector, jobs linked to outdoor recreation are somewhat recession proof. The study shows that between 2006 and 2011, the outdoor recreation industry grew by an average of 6 percent a year.

I’m Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

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