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Maine business leaders unite to ignite outdoor economy

The goal of Maine Outdoor Brands (MOB) is to encourage a younger workforce and continue the state’s recreation growth.

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It’s one of the more sparsely populated states in the union, but with abundant coastline, thick woods, craggy peaks, and its flagship national park (Acadia), Maine is no lightweight when it comes to outdoor recreation.

In fact, Maine is home to 76,000 outdoor industry jobs and 8.2 billion dollars of annual consumer spending.

So it comes as no surprise that, much like pioneers in other outdoor-loving states, industry leaders in Maine are banding together to ultimately grow the outdoor rec economy. Led by Jim Hauptman, managing partner of Blaze Partners, an advertising agency, the newly formed Maine Outdoor Brands is looking specifically towards young people to reach its goal of igniting the outdoor industry in the state. We sat down with Hauptman to learn more about his plan.

SNEWS: How many outdoor companies are in Maine?

Jim Hauptman: Because the state doesn’t track this information, specifically, it’s a tough question to answer. We know that at $1.6 billion in annual sales, L.L.Bean would be the largest outdoor product company in the state. And from our own research, we estimate there are another 75 to 100 outdoor product companies that call Maine home. But we’ve also been surprised and heartened by the number of smaller, 1 to 2 person companies.that weren’t on anyone’s radar who’ve reached out to us. So, at this point, 100 could be conservative.

SNEWS: How specifically will you lure in a younger workforce?

JH: From industry and market research, we know that GenXers and Millennials place a high value on quality of life and the ability to spend time outdoors — which makes Maine a natural choice and an easy sell. The greater challenge is finding and creating jobs for the young people who are already here, have studied here in Maine, and those who want to escape the big cities to our south. We’ve already had discussions with other organizations in the state who are set up to provide this support: Live + Work in Maine and the University of Maine Career Center. The MOB website has a jobs board that just went live a week ago. We see job creation and fulfillment as paramount to the success of our member brands and the state at large.

[Why your state NEEDS an OREC and how you can get it]

SNEWS: Are you in the process of seeking help from the Governor’s office in your efforts to formalize your organization, and join the growing roster of states who have government representation for the outdoor industry?

JH: MOB is very much a grass roots organization. We were founded by outdoor brands to serve and support outdoor brands. We’ve had several meetings with Commissioner George Gervais from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development as well as Wade Merritt, the President of Maine International Trade Center. Both have expressed tremendous interest in our mission and progress to date, and have pledged to support our efforts. We’re currently evaluating how best to harness the resources the state may be able to provide to the greatest effect of our members.