Maine Outdoor Brands leverages the state’s reputation as an outdoors destination to support the recreation industry and boost Maine’s economy.
Three years ago at an outdoor industry trade show in Salt Lake City, representatives from a handful of Maine companies attended, and had an idea to join together to help raise the state’s outdoor recreation industry as a whole. Before the end of 2017, the companies had founded Maine Outdoor Brands, which hired its ﬁrst full-time executive director in July 2019. As head of the ﬂedgling nonproﬁt, Jenny Kordick has been tasked with promoting and advocating for the industry, supporting access to the outdoors to help grow recreational opportunities, and assisting the different businesses within the group.
Now, Maine Outdoor Brands represents just over 60 companies. Many of them are product, retail, or service companies, including L.L.Bean, Flowfold, and Hyperlite Mountain Gear, but the industry group also includes photography and media companies and general business service providers. The group is open to any business with a significant presence in Maine that helps facilitate outdoor experiences, Kordick says.
By marketing the state and making strong connections between the state, the outdoors, and these companies, Kordick says the organization helps lift up the entire industry. “We hear from a lot of these companies that they want to be in Maine,” she says. “Their identity as a business is so connected to Maine and to the outdoors, and that helps them. It’s really about leveraging the Maine outdoor brand.” This past summer the organization brought 14 Maine companies to Outdoor Retailer’s summer trade show in Denver, including smaller ones that otherwise wouldn’t have gone on their own, Kordick says.
The aim of Maine Outdoor Brands goes well beyond selling more boots and backpacks or getting more people to go hiking—it’s about economic development. Maine’s outdoor recreation industry makes up 4.8 percent of the state’s economy, double the national average and the third highest of any state, according to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. Before Kordick joined, Maine Outdoor Brands was instrumental in advocating for the creation of Maine’s Office of Outdoor Recreation, which has a similar goal of growing the state’s outdoor recreation economy. Kordick says that outdoor recreation can be a key catalyst in rural economic development, not only by increasing visitors but by encouraging people to live in rural communities and support other local businesses. “It’s not just about tourism,” she says. “It’s about the companies and jobs here and strengthening the outdoor brand in Maine, which is going to attract more people to this state to live and work.”