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Updated: January 10, 2022 2022 Economic Forecast

2022 Forecast: Maine Outdoor Brands gears up for trade show return, startup training

Jenny Kordick standing in front of water and rocks. Photo / Courtesy Maine Outdoor Brands Jenny Kordick, executive director of the Maine Outdoor Brands nonprofit alliance, says the pandemic has sparked stronger interest in outdoor recreation.

Robust interest in Maine’s great outdoors is sparking a wave of startup activity and newcomers to the Maine Outdoor Brands nonprofit trade alliance. Membership has grown 60% since the start of the pandemic to around 150 today.

“With the pandemic, we’ve seen more interest in outdoor recreation, and that has definitely spurred some people to start businesses, which is amazing to see,” says Jenny Kordick, executive director of the group, which is based in Portland but has board members from Kittery to northern Maine’s Debouille Township. “We’ve seen that both on the product and service side.”

Among startups on her radar: Northeast Ramblers, a new Portland-based company that rents vehicles outfitted with rooftop tents, field kitchens and gear for overland exploration.

While traditional camping at state parks is “off the charts,” Kordick notes that high-end camping, or glamping, is becoming popular, at places from Sandy Pines Campground to Kampgrounds of America’s Terramor Outdoor Resort in Bar Harbor.

Outdoor recreation in Maine generated $2.3 billion in gross output in 2020, down from $2.9 billion in 2019, according to a November report from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. When 2021 data is released next year, Kordick says she expects the number to be back to around $3 billion or higher.

To promote Maine on the national stage, Maine Outdoor Brands will have a booth at this month’s Outdoor Retailer Snow Show in Denver featuring brands including South Portland axe maker Brant & Cochran and Waterville-based portable campfire provider Tree Free Fire.

“This will be our first trip back to a trade show since the pandemic, and we’re taking a bunch of emerging brands,” Kordick says. “We’re really excited.”

Among other plans in 2022, Maine Outdoor Brands will join forces with Maine Center for Entrepreneurs to develop business training for early-stage outdoor recreation businesses, with $25,000 from the Maine Community Foundation’s Start Up Scale Up Grant Program.

Maine Outdoor Brands also plans to pursue additional grants and funding to help the industry expand further.

“We see a need to help accelerate and incubate outdoor recreation startups and work together as an industry to attract and retain a talented workforce,” Kordick says.

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