Monday, July 23, 2012

Get Outside, Come Rain or Shine... news from the policy world and client updates

In early June I attended the Western Governors Association meeting in Cle Elum. It felt like the only day in all of June where the sun came out for a visit and the property was redolent with the scent of Ponderosa Pine and enticements for outdoor play. I was itching to get outside. As the Governor nears the end of her term,  it was delightful to watch the repartee between she and Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana,  a spitfire of a human.

The focus at this particular gathering was the recently unveiled Get Out West campaign. Interestingly, there were many medical, insurance and energy companies,  but very few outdoor recreation companies in attendance. Tom Spaletto, President of North Face, spoke about how if we don't get younger people interested in the out of doors, he and other outdoor recreation lines of business will shutter their doors sooner than we might imagine possible. Addressing that concern were a number of youth ambassadors that are tasked with finding innovative ways to get younger people outside using hand held technology and updated forms of using the front country (parks and more suburban and urban green areas) as a pathway to the backcountry.

The outdoor recreation economy in Washington is sizable and includes a wide variety of active and passive recreation.  Tourism is promoted and based on Washington’s stunning natural resources and there is a growing recognition that this is tied directly to economic development. In Washington State, researchers anticipate a 37% increase in nature-based tourism through 2023 (RCO). Active outdoor recreation in Washington generates over $11.7 billion annually to our economy.
36.41% of the state is publicly owned lands which, if approached as an experiential opportunity, can lead to job development associated with experiencing public land from a variety of perspectives. This thinking is underscored by a recent federal report regarding the economic value of the outdoors. 

At a national scale, a late 2011 report indicates that the total economic activity associated with outdoor recreation, nature conservation and historic preservation generates a staggering $1.6 trillion dollars annually. Spending on hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing on National Forest Land generated $9.5 billion in retail sales, supported 189,400 jobs and $1.1 billion in federal taxes (The Economics Associated with Outdoor Recreation, Natural Resources Conservation and Historic Preservation in the United States. National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, 2011).

The WGA meeting was an interesting contrast to the Washington Economic Development Commission meeting in Seattle just a week before the WGA meeting. We have been collaborating with Teresa Lemmons from the Washington State Microenterprise Association (WSMA)  to develop greater support for microenterprise and Small to Medium Enterprises, in the lexicon known as SMEs. As a Pacific rim state, of course you would expect robust support for export. As a state marked by giants such as Boeing, Amazon, Starbucks and Microsoft among many others, you would expect a high degree of attention on high tech and IT. What threw me however, was the complete absence- in both discussion and in the current  strategy from the WEDC- attention on microenterprise, SMEs, tourism, small scale agriculture or outdoor recreation.

In a public world of dwindling resources, we might expect less attention on these lines of business.  Broadly speaking, tourism is not identified as a high salary field and it's possible this is related to why the industry was not called out for attention. As a result, WSMA and Calyx are looking into developing a small business alliance, an organizational form that will be vital to tourism in Washington. If you are interested in participating down the road, please contact Heidi  at We also recently received some interesting papers from professor Chas Tolbert at Baylor University.

" Counties and parishes with a greater concentration of small, locally-owned businesses have healthier populations -- with lower rates of mortality, obesity and diabetes -- than do those that rely on large companies with "absentee" owners, according to a national study by sociologists at Baylor University and LSU."  We thought the link  between health and independent business is as interesting as the link between communities with high degrees of social capital and prosperity.

Client Partnership Round Up
Technically challenged, we are moving to a Wordpress format for our site soon which will give us content management control. In the meantime,  here's some news about client partnerships:
In 2011, Calyx became a joint venture of the Institute for Washington's Future (IWF). IWF works on sustainable community development with a focus on agriculture, biofuels, sustainable energy, Latino farm development and related social justice issues. Last year we produced a comprehensive farmland acquisition strategy for IWF and, in the process,  learned a great deal regarding the wide array of tools to help keep farmers in farming. As you might know, the median age of farmers is 57, many don't do estate planning and as a result, their land gets converted to development when other options have not been evaluated in time to plan for continued farming. IWF is now working under a sizable USDA grant with its partners to service Latino farmers outside Yakima and Tieton as new farmers.  We partnered with IWF on several USDA grants for Harrington and Tieton but unfortunately were unsuccessful. Undeterred, we will look at other options this year for the business feasibility planning we are interested in pursuing in eastern Washington.

Moving east to the sunny part of the State, we partnered with Ken Cohen at Central Washington University to evaluate a sustainable tourism institute at the University. Professor Cohen teaches sustainable tourism and has taken his students on trips overseas to Ecuador and most recently, Vietnam, to explore how sustainable tourism is planned and implemented at a community scale. For our analysis,  we addressed economic development in Washington, inroads for agriculinary tourism, links to outdoor recreation and novel lodging and are happy to see the work being used in Ellensburg and as a basis for program development. Provost Marilyn Levine and Ken Cohen are taking  a very inclusive community approach to integrating the University into community level issues and they have been wonderful to work with.

What happened to last summer besides the no-show sun in July? We spent a good part of that summer writing a grant which led to a major score-- a highly competitive working lands grant from EPA's National Estuary program. Calyx is working with the King Conservation District, Cascade Harvest Coalition and Northwest Natural Resource Group  in the iconic Snoqualmie Valley called When Cows Meet Clams (or when Moo Meets Goo).  The program is designed to be a replicable model for integrating an economic development and working lands stewardship approach to keep working lands working and build connections between these lands and the health of Puget Sound. We have already completed an asset inventory and maps that show assets, farm restoration, the distribution of small forest landowners and sensitive ecological areas. The team and its partners will provide stewardship, land tenure and marketing/tourism training,  build greater market demand for local farm and forest products and hold tours in 2013- watch out for both serious (ecology, restoration, links with Puget Sound) and the bizarre (veggie fashion shows and  much loved zombies).