The Outdoor Business Alliance of WNC (OBA) – a 30+ brand strong collective – have unveiled their 2018 Western North Carolina Outdoor Industry Manufacturing Census demonstrating exciting growth in nearly every area. The census, with information from 33 members of the alliance, provides a snapshot of the current size and economic impact of this growing industry, and along with previous censuses can be used to measure the growth and trends in the industry over time.

Some highlights from the census include a 61% increase of jobs in the WNC economy since 2014, from 473 to 762, and a 114% increase of local sourcing dollars since 2014, from $4 million to $8.6 million. The size of companies by annual revenue has also increased dramatically over the past four years.

“Looking at the continuous growth of our metrics from 2014 to 2016 to 2018, and the major growth we’re seeing this year in local sourcing, it’s clear that outdoor gear manufacturing is really coming into its own as an economic powerhouse for our region,” said Noah Wilson, Project Director for the OBA. “We look forward to continuing to grow our network and our partnerships to be able to report even more economic impact in the years to come!”

OBG 2018 Census

Currently, the OBA boasts over 30 members located in 25 counties in WNC. 100% of the companies distribute nationally to everyone from day-hikers, to ultralight backpackers, to the Navy SEALs, and 67% of them export internationally to countries including Norway, South Korea, the UK, Australia, Russia, France and Japan. According to the census, brands and partners in the Outdoor Industry have picked WNC as their home because of the abundant resources and talent pool, the benefits of the area for product development and testing, the fact NC is gaining national and international recognition as a gear innovation hub, and because of the network of collaboration within the outdoor industry of WNC.

“The numbers from the 2018 census are a great reminder that WNC is a stronghold for the Outdoor Industry on the East Coast,” Amy Allison, Marketing Director at Eagles Nest Outfitters and OBA’s Board Chair said. “We have built a meaningful network that has opened channels of communication between our brands and community partners, and allowed us to be a valuable resource for one another. Our member companies will continue to design and manufacture the best outdoor gear available, while collaborating with one another, and our economic development partners, to support the progress and growth of our region.”

The Outdoor Business Alliance formed in 2012 with a goal to unite the awesome outdoor gear manufacturers that all call Western North Carolina home. Since then, they’ve expanded to outfitters and partners as well, all with an aim to grow the region’s outdoor industry together. Along with hosting an annual festival – the Get In Gear Festival – members take advantage of educational workshops delivered by subject matter experts with topics tailored to the business needs of outdoor gear manufacturers and their partners.