Alabama residents and visitors have long recognized and enjoyed the state’s natural resources, and a new group of leaders seek to use those same assets to advance and grow the state.
Innovate Alabama established the Council on Outdoor Recreation to advise the Board on strategies to achieve three key goals: growing Alabama’s outdoor recreation industry; increasing the attractiveness of the country for skilled workers; and generate significant returns for rural and urban communities for the delight of current and future Alabamaans.
The council is supported by the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Roundtable, which is composed of 19 stakeholders representing diverse and broad perspectives from different regions of the state and outdoor recreation areas. The roundtable, which met for the first time on November 30, will make recommendations for capitalizing on Alabama’s recreational assets as innovative tools for economic development.
“The Outdoor Recreation Advisory Roundtable, composed of some of our state’s strongest outdoor recreation experts, brings together centuries of combined knowledge in nature to provide strategic recommendations for applying outdoor recreation to improve the quality of life of Alabamians and support economic… Rural development and urban communities,” said Chris Blankenship, Alabama Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner and Chair of the Council on Outdoor Recreation. “We are very pleased to welcome these advisory members who will ensure all regions of the state and outdoor recreation sectors are seated around the same table as we develop these recommendations.”
In 2021, Innovate Alabama partnered with former US Secretary of State and Alabama native Condoleezza Rice and Stanford University’s Hoover Institution to conduct extensive research to foster a resilient, inclusive economy in Alabama. The research, which culminated in a final report, highlighted the opportunity to use Alabama’s natural resources to attract innovators and encourage them to gain a foothold in the state. Out of this research the Council on Outdoor Recreation was founded.
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“A thriving business ecosystem is holistic,” said Kellie Clark, CEO of AppThink and Roundtable member. “It takes into account the interests, hobbies and well-being of entrepreneurs and their families. People are building businesses in Alabama in part because of our outdoor recreation opportunities and scenic diversity. Our natural resources – a real asset that helps us continue to attract and retain top talent – set us apart from other highly innovative nations.”
“As an outdoor enthusiast and advocate for innovation, I am proud to work alongside other subject matter experts, each focused on creating inclusive, thoughtful solutions through the lens of outdoor recreation that will enrich our innovation ecosystem,” said Clark.
Innovate Alabama works to leverage the state’s wide array of outdoor assets, such as local and state parks, diverse landscapes and other natural resources, to showcase and cultivate Alabama’s unique offerings. Proponents say greater investment in those assets that make Alabama special will attract and encourage entrepreneurs, both local and from outside the state, to put down roots in the state.
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“We’re seeing great success balancing innovation with our outdoor recreation efforts,” said John Kvach, Executive Director of Singing River Trail and Roundtable member. “Thanks to Alabama’s unique outdoor landscape and outdoor recreation facilities, we have the potential to strengthen regional ties between rural and urban communities to create a thriving statewide innovation ecosystem.”