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Wisconsin outdoor recreation industry sets $8.7 billion record in 2021


Recently compiled data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis shows Wisconsin’s outdoor recreation industry contributed a record $8.7 billion to the state’s gross domestic product in 2021.

The industry grew more than three times faster than the state’s overall economy.

“There was such a demand for anything outdoors. A lot of stores literally sold out. There were empty bike shops all over the world,” said Andrew Teichmiller. He is the owner of Chequamegon Adventure Company in Minocqua which will be going into its 25th summer in 2023.

The shop sells and rents a range of outdoor silent sports equipment including canoes, kayaks, and bicycles.

He says 2021 was a rollercoaster for people in his line of work.

“In a way that was great, but also in a way that negatively impacted quite a few retailers and suppliers,” said Teichmiller.

Between the high demand and lingering pandemic shutdowns, manufacturers were struggling to keep up with demand at times.

But despite the struggles, the outdoor industry boomed in Wisconsin growing by 14% last year,according to a report by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

It’s impacted everything from manufacturers and retailers to restaurants and lodging.

“It truly was amazing how many people came up and how many people were in and out of our store,” said Teichmiller.

While the outdoor industry has mostly righted itself in terms of supply and demand, lingering issues still remain.

It’s one of the reasons Teichmiller decided to temporarily closed the Chequamegon Adventure Company until spring. It’s the second winter in a row he’s done this.

“The fat bikes that we sell quite a few of, that production has really been interrupted a lot,” said Teichmiller.

Last winter he didn’t get his fat tire bike order until March and he sold his stock of them this year by the end of October. He’s not expecting a restock until February or March.

“My store is very small. During the wintertime, I’m the only employee so I just decided it will best if I shut down and went and enjoyed myself,” said Teichmiller.

While he’s hopeful the supply chain will smooth back out, one of Teichmiller’s biggest concerns looking forward is one shared with just about every industry: finding enough workers.

Teichmiller says he was grateful for the patient and understanding customers that came through his doors the last couple of years.

“I hope that continues and I hope it goes into other industries, like the restaurant industry especially,” said Teichmiller. “Where people can relax a little bit more, understand the situation that’s going on with employees and everybody being short-staffed. Just enjoying the Northwoods for what it is which is just an incredible place that we get to live, work, play, and vacation in.”

The report says Wisconsin’s outdoor industry provides nearly 90,000 jobs.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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