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Remarks by Secretary Wilbur L. Ross on Capitol Hill for the Release of the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account Data


Thank you Tom for that kind introduction.

I cannot tell you how pleased I am to be here to discuss the performance of this exciting and growing sector of our economy, and the positive impact it has on many millions of Americans.

Thanks to Senator Daines and Senator Donnelly for their leadership in drafting and passing the “Rec Act,” creating the data series we are releasing today describing the size, scope, and impact of the outdoor recreation industry on the U.S. economy.

And thank you, Derrick, for all the work you did in organizing this event.

Since joining the Commerce Department last year, I have been a big proponent of the outdoor recreation industry.

As many of you know, the Commerce Department not only collects the economic data being presented today, but we are also home of NOAA and its National Marine Fisheries Service, and our national marine sanctuaries.

Fishing alone creates fantastic opportunities for economic growth for the United States, and, according to the data we are releasing today, it is the number-one most impactful American outdoor activity.

Thanks to the work of our team at the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and many of you in the outdoor recreation industry, our country now knows just how big and important your industry is to the U.S. economy.

The numbers that BEA Director Brian Moyer will soon describe are simply phenomenal.

They show that the outdoor recreation industry generated $412 billion in revenue in 2016, accounting for 2.2 percent of U.S. GDP in 2016.

That is a very, very large number.

To put this industry in perspective, it is a bigger contributor to GDP than the chemical manufacturing sector at 2.1 percent, and all the nation’s utilities, at 1.5 percent of GDP.

As BEA’s data series indicates, the outdoor recreation industry grew faster than overall GDP in 2016.

And if you were to include all of the digital photographs taken by people engaged in the great outdoors, and posting them to social media, I’m sure the industry would be even bigger!

The rate of job growth for the outdoor recreation sector in 2016 — at 2.3 percent — was greater than the overall rate of job growth in the economy at 1.4 percent.

People working in this dynamic industry are also experiencing a nice rise in their salaries — by 4.3 percent in 2016, versus overall compensation growth of 2.7 percent for the average American worker.

This new data series will provide the intelligence that thousands of companies and their employees can use to take advantage of important market trends and opportunities.

Developing this new suite of data is also an indication of how our government and private sector can work together to build the economy.

In developing the statistics, BEA engaged directly with companies, trade groups and individuals engaged in the outdoor recreation industry.

Their input further refined the data sets you see here today.

With the industry’s feedback, BEA looked deeper into specific sectors, and broadened the scope of the datasets.

I also want to convey the good news we reported last week about the number of foreign visitors coming to the United States last year.

Many of these overseas visitors come to the United States to enjoy and experience the bounty and beauty of our country.

They are an integral part of the outdoor rec. industry.

The National Travel and Tourism Office at the Commerce Department reported that there were 77 million international visitors to the United State in 2017, an increase of almost 1 percent from 2016.

These visitors spent a record $251 billion in the United States, accounting for 32 percent of all of our exports from the U.S. services sector.

The number of foreign visitors to the United States in 2018 remains strong, and those visitors are spending at a record-setting pace, up by 3 percent for the seven months ending in July.

These overseas visitors come here to hike and bike.

They play golf, fish, ski, hunt and tour our national parks, monuments, and sanctuaries.

Foreign visitors are a valuable component of the outdoor recreation industry.

I would also like to talk briefly about the Administration’s trade policy, since many of the industries represented here are interested in what we are doing.

The Administration is trying to rebuild our manufacturing sector, including production of the equipment that is used by millions of outdoor enthusiasts.

If you go to a sporting goods store, and check the country-of-origin labels, virtually everything Americans are buying is now made offshore, including 99 percent of our footwear, high-tech sportswear, luggage, and sporting goods such as golf clubs, fishing poles, bicycles, lightweight camping equipment — virtually everything.

Almost all of this gear was once produced in the United States.

But due to errors made by prior governments in trade policy and by allowing the proliferation of unfair trade practices and foreign industrial subsidies, U.S. production shifted offshore, along with the thousands of good jobs it once supported in the United States.

The seminal report done by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s “Production in the Innovation Economy” described how the United States cannot sustain innovation without having manufacturing.

They are dependent upon each other.

So, for the sake of the Americans who are inventing and innovating new outdoor products and equipment, we need to have manufacturing capability located in our country, close to our innovators, and close to the market.

We are changing the past mistakes in trade policy to make the United States the preferred place both to design and manufacture the products that your industry sells.

Finally, since it is also within the purview of the Commerce Department, I would also like to mention the importance of NOAA to the outdoor recreation industry.

NOAA did an amazing job just now forecasting the precise track and potential impacts of Hurricane Florence through the Carolinas and mid-Atlantic, and giving a greater period of advance notice than in prior years.

With the GOES East Satellite’s high-resolution imagery, and our next-generation computer forecast models, NOAA provided companies and individuals in your industry with the precise forecasts they needed to protect assets, and plan effectively for a massively disruptive event.

Your industry is a big consumer of government services, from Doppler Radar, to global positioning systems, tide tables, navigational charts, and precise weather forecasts that enable people to enjoy the outdoors and get home safely.

NOAA’s satellites detect and locate emergency beacons from mariners, aviators, and recreational enthusiasts in distress.

So far this year, NOAA satellites have aided in the search and rescue of 245 people in the United States.

NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service monitors fish stocks and sets the catch limits that ensure we will have sustainable recreational fisheries for generations to come.

These services are essential to your industry, and we appreciate your support for their sustainment.

With that, thank you all for being here.

And I am honored to introduce Brian Moyer, the director of our Bureau of Economic Analysis, to discuss some of the findings of the new data series.