Polk County’s got cool

Published 9:18 am Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Spending on outdoor recreation is a vital part of the foothills and western North Carolina economies. It means jobs and incomes and can be the lifeblood of many rural communities. A closer look at the adventure/outdoor industry highlight the value of this often under-appreciated sector – one that is not otherwise measured as a traditional pillar of the U.S. economy.

The outdoor recreation industry also impacts a variety of larger industries like manufacturing, leisure and hospitality, transportation and wholesale and retail trade. Western NC has become a center not only of recreation itself, but also of the design, development and manufacture of outdoor equipment. Companies like Astral Buoyancy, Cane Creek Cycling, Diamond Brand Outdoors, Liquid Logic, Misty Mountain Threadworks, Nantahala Outdoor Center, Sylvan Sport and Watershed Drybags are succeeding in the region.

Stir in to this already successful industry some competitive events and you have a recipe for continued prosperity. This year in September, Polk County will be the scene of the first annual Green River Games. The weekend will host competitions in kayaking, road races, trail races, bike races and stand up paddleboard races. A Saturday night street party will surely delight local businesses that need that extra bump in sales in the lull between the end of summer and leaf season.

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There’s another benefit that is often overlooked to nurturing an outdoor industry: a green, all-natural calling card to young athletic singles and families. The keyword here is young. The appeal of an outdoor industry is instrumental in bringing young talent to the region – people drawn by our (do we dare say it?)  cool factor, affordability and live-work balance.

As long as Polk County continues to rely on its tried and true reputation as a “Best Place to Retire,” we need to balance that with an extra step to ensure the future includes a next generation and what better group to roll out the red carpet for than healthy, energetic outdoor adventurers?