First-time occasion to lure out of doors rec trade to Arkansas

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The Natural State aims to capitalize on the “natural” part of its moniker and continue to develop a multi-billion dollar industry – outdoor recreation.

What happened: An outdoor rec summit on Wednesday brought together startups, investors and corporations eager to support Bentonville.

  • It was the first-ever Innovation in Outdoor Recreation Showcase hosted by Plug and Play Tech Center, a venture capital and networking firm that connects entrepreneurs with investors.

Why it matters: A healthy outdoor recreation entrepreneurial ecosystem can help sustain and develop Arkansas’ economy by creating jobs, raising living standards, and supporting other businesses.

  • Yes and: The industry is in growth mode. The outdoor recreation economy accounted for $374.3 billion of US GDP in 2020. Industry experts in the room agreed that the market will continue its upward trend.

Details: Lecturers who work in places like Patagonia and REI or who manage VC funds spoke to approximately 150 entrepreneurs and investors about their experiences in the outdoor recreation industry.

  • Katherine Andrews, director of the Office of Outdoor Recreation in the state Department of Tourism, made the case for entrepreneurs to base their businesses in Arkansas.
  • Then startups had the opportunity to network and meet potential investors.
  • 17 entrepreneurs showcased products ranging from women-specific hiking pants to apps designed to connect women of color to outdoor adventures.

Altangle Cycling makes durable aluminum bike racks that fold down for easy travel. CEO Scott Smith told Axios he just relocated his business and family from Houston, Texas to NWA because he recognized this area as a future center for the outdoor recreation industry.

What you say: Will Decker, vice president of Plug and Play, said the event looks set to be a success because people made connections and spoke passionately about the industry.

  • “We’ll see in a few months,” he said of all the deals being made this week.