Spencer among communities selected for state outdoor recreation funds

Published 12:03 am Thursday, February 2, 2023

Spencer and Cabarrus County are among 34 communities selected for Creating Outdoor Recreation Economies (CORE) Program funds. The North Carolina Department of Commerce’s Rural Economic Development Division chose them to offers strategic planning and technical assistance to help rural communities leverage North Carolina’s outdoor recreation assets.

The CORE program is a component of the Supporting and Strengthening Resiliency in North Carolina’s Travel, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation Sectors Initiative that was awarded a $6 million U.S. Economic Development Administration State Tourism Grant.

Outdoor recreation is a significant economic driver across the state of North Carolina. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis outdoor recreation in North Carolina contributed over $11.8 billion to the state’s GDP in 2021. This economic sector accounts for over 130,000 jobs annually resulting in more than $5.9 billion in compensation for employees.

“The outdoor recreation sector is a substantial contributor to our state’s economy,” said N.C. Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders in a news release. “With boat building at the coast to kayak manufacturing in the mountains, and diverse natural landscapes offering tourism opportunities in between, outdoor recreation is an industry primed for continued growth in North Carolina.”

Through CORE, communities will collaborate with local stakeholders through a strategic planning process to identify and develop outdoor recreation assets that present economic growth opportunities. Strategy development will focus on leveraging outdoor recreation assets to increase tourism, encourage small business development, enhance quality of life for residents, plan for asset and infrastructure development, and/or position communities to grow and attract outdoor gear manufacturing industries. The planning process will be tailored to meet the needs and goals of each community. The CORE program will also provide technical assistance and training to help communities implement their strategies.

“Our rural communities have long been destinations for recreation and relaxation in the great outdoors,” said Kenny Flowers, assistant secretary of rural economic development. “The strategic planning assistance offered through CORE will help these communities leverage natural assets to increase economic opportunity and improve quality of life for residents across the state.”