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New Hampshire promotes outdoor industry with new office

New Hampshire is creating a state office dedicated to outdoor recreation in hopes of both expanding that industry and using it to attract young workers to other sectors.

The new Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry Development will be part of the state Department of Business and Economic Affairs and will promote New Hampshire as the East Coast state that best combines a vibrant economy with outdoor lifestyles, Commissioner Taylor Caswell said in an interview Thursday.

"Utilizing the growing outdoor recreation industry and its popularity with the target demographic gives us a leg up," he said.

The new office builds upon ongoing attempts to leverage economic development with tourism marketing. Two years ago, the former Department of Resources and Economic Development was split into two new departments — the one Caswell oversees, which includes economic development and tourism — and the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

While the new office was created via the state budget Republican Gov. Chris Sununu signed last month, no state funding will be used to set it up, Caswell said. Instead, federal funding will cover the costs.

In a report last month, the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis said outdoor recreation nationally accounted for $427.2 billion of current-dollar gross domestic product in 2017, and is growing faster than the economy overall. The industry employs nearly 38,000 people in New Hampshire and accounts for 3.3 percent of the gross state product.

While boating and fishing was the largest activity for the nation as a whole, snow activities topped the list in New Hampshire. In addition to traditional resort-based skiing, backcountry or glade skiing is growing in popularity, Caswell said, and there's an organization working with landowners and the federal government to identify new areas for the activity.

Caswell said he's been encouraged by positive trends such census figures that show the state has seen a significant rise in the movement of young adults to the state compared with earlier in the decade.

"It's been a slow sort of connecting," he said. "I think it's working, and I do think it's a combination of economy and lifestyle that works very well for the younger demographic."

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