Leaders: The future of Farmington’s outdoor industry looks bright
FARMINGTON – State leaders see a new future for Farmington as a potential hub for outdoor products and activities, after decades of dependence on extractive industries.
At the New Mexico Open-Air Economy Conference in Farmington this week, officials presented the northwestern New Mexico city as a potential poster for the state’s transformation from an economy based. on oil and gas to a multi-pronged approach that includes outdoor recreation.
Partly due to closures and cuts in the oil and gas industry, Farmington has lagged behind other cities in recovering employment in 2021, with an unemployment rate of 9.3% in July, highest among the state’s four metropolitan statistical areas.
During the event, however, Farmington Mayor Nate Duckett highlighted the growing footprint of the city’s outdoor industry. While Farmington lacks the industry presence observed in Durango, Colorado, 50 miles north, Duckett said the town hosted its first rafting guides this year and had several bike shops along its route. redeveloped main street.
“We are trying here to understand how we focus on the outdoor recreation movement that is taking place across the mountain state region,” Duckett said.
Several hundred New Mexicans flocked to Farmington for the three-day conference, which highlighted the progress made by the state’s small but growing outdoor industry. The fourth annual event, led by the nonprofit Outdoor New Mexico, was designed to advance economic development strategies related to New Mexico’s public lands, with panel discussions on a range of outdoor topics. .
Several state leaders, including New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands, Stephanie Garcia Richard, and Cabinet Secretary for Economic Development Alicia Keyes, were on hand to discuss the state of the industry, which includes companies ranging from ski resorts to bicycle manufacturers.
“In New Mexico, we have a tradition and a heritage of the outdoors,” Garcia Richard said. “We have people who have lived on this earth for thousands of years, and it’s a really deep part of who we are.”
Other leaders, including Senator Martin Heinrich and Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, spoke virtually at the conference.
Axie Navas, director of the state’s outdoor recreation division, said the industry contributed $ 2.4 billion to the state’s economy in 2019. Although more recent data is not available not yet available, individual companies have reported booming sales during the COVID-19 pandemic, when state and local lockdowns, as well as fear of contracting the virus, drove New Mexicans to the outside.
Despite the growth, Keyes added that the industry lags far behind some of its neighboring states in terms of overall impact. In Colorado, for example, Keyes said the outdoor industry contributes about $ 12 billion a year.
In part because of this, Keyes said the current administration has identified outdoor recreation as a target industry for New Mexico, one that aligns with state strengths while helping to diversify. the state economy outside of oil and gas.
“It was a real pleasure to have this North Star,” Keyes said.
During the event, panels covered a wide range of industry-related topics, from small business financing resources to trail development. Participants from across the state expressed interest in finding ways to develop the industry in an inclusive manner. To that end, Navas and other leaders pointed to the state’s Outdoor Equity Fund, launched last year to fund programs that help underserved populations access the outdoors.
“The Outdoor Equity Fund has leveled the playing field for a lot of us,” Ray Trejo, southern New Mexico outreach coordinator for the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, said at a table. round on equity.