Seeking to leverage the state's rugged outdoor heritage, outdoor-focused companies from L.L. Bean to dehydrated food maker Good To-Go announced Monday that they've created a trade alliance named Maine Outdoors Brands to boost the sector.
Participants in the group hope to build on the state's reputation for hiking, biking and paddling to ignite the state's outdoor recreation economy.
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"The outdoor industry is incredibly important for the economy," said Steve Smith, president and CEO of L.L. Bean. "We are always better together."
Part of that effort, organizers said, will include creating a business climate that promotes outdoor product brands and the younger workforce they attract.
Economic and Community Development Commissioner George Gervais praised the effort and said these "young, entrepreneurial companies are injecting new life into Maine's economy." He said he'd like for more outdoors-focused companies to call Maine home.
The state's outdoor recreation industry accounts for $8.2 billion in annual spending and supports 76,000 jobs in Maine, according to a report by the Outdoor Industry Association.
Seeking to build on that, the alliance started with six brands 10 months ago, said Jim Hauptman, the group's founder and managing partner of Blaze Partners, an advertising firm.
"Maine has a stated goal of attracting more young people," Hauptman said. "Outdoor product categories are such a natural for that."
Some of the companies are well known, like L.L. Bean, the catalog and online retailer that has more than $1.5 billion in annual sales.
Others, like Good To-Go, are niche companies. Good To-Go has transformed dehydrated meals like ramen into epicurean meals for campers.
"The relationship between Maine and the outdoors goes back centuries and continues to be a driving force for its tourism industry and overall economic growth. It's why so many people come to our beautiful state," said Good-To-Go founder David Koorits.
As one of its first initiatives, Maine Outdoors Brands is working with the Maine International Trade Center to obtain grants for members to go to the Outdoor Retailer Show in January in Colorado. The event brings together outdoor gear makers, shop owners and outdoor media.