Western North Carolina received some big checks this week from Appalachian Regional Commission. WNC Farmers Market received $1.25 million for expansions but that’s not the only local organization that was awarded funding.
Amy Allison, chair of Outdoor Gear Builders, accepted the $940,000 check on behalf of Mountain BizWorks in Asheville. This shows the relationship between the two organizations. They both have a similar goal to raise awareness about the outdoor opportunities in the area.
“We want people to know that they don’t have to go out of our area code for the gear that they wanted to go backpacking, hiking or climbing,” says Allison, who is marketing manager at Eagles Nest Outdoor (ENO).
Outdoor Gear Builders is a collaborative group of more than 30 local gear manufacturers who make everything from kayaks to campers. Mountain Bizworks is a non-profit that gives out small business loans in the region. This money will go to expand their collaborative effort to grow WNC’s outdoor gear manufacturing industry.
Matt Raker, Director of Community Investments & Impact at Mountain Bizworks, explained that they see Western North Carolina as the hub of outdoor industry on the East Coast.
“The outdoor industry accounts for $14 billion of consumer spending in Western North Carolina,” says Raker. “It’s so pervasive sometimes that we don’t even recognize that.”
That number for outdoor recreation spending jumps up to over $28 billion when you look at NC overall.
Raker says there are over 30 outdoor equipment manufacturers in the area and hundreds more stores ranging from bike shops and outfitters to fly stores. One of their main challenges is reminding consumers to shop local.
Tim Thomas, federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, explained that the funds given will be used to secure over 200 jobs and expand or create 135 businesses.
Outdoor Gear Builder says that they currently provide over 720 jobs in the region.
“This is a really transformational moment for the outdoor industry across Western North Carolina,” says Raker.
“We’re thrilled to have great partners who recognize that Western North Carolina can be the pinnacle for the outdoors on the east coast and help to make that reality come true.”