Outdoor recreation drives Idaho economy

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - Idaho is a great place to go mountain biking. Or if shooting the rapids is more your style there are plenty of raging rivers to be found. We have some legendary fly fishing spots, and some of the best snow in the country.

But did you know that businesses tied to outdoor recreation account for 13 percent of Idaho's jobs?

Aire Inc. is one of those businesses. Twenty-four years ago the founder started making rafts out of his garage, and now they have a warehouse in Meridian and 47 employees.

There are many more small local companies that follow a similar business model, but none of them would be as successful without Idaho's outdoor spirit.

In fact, business is so good these competitors have developed a friendly camaraderie and often work together to get a better feel for market trends.

"One of the great things about the outdoor industry, both fishing and paddle sports is most businesses are small, like ours, so we feed off each other. We get good information," says Chris Callanan, the marketing director for Aire Inc.

Idaho River Sports has a showroom on site at Aire Inc., but they are much busier at their Quinn's pond location in Boise, especially in the summer.

"On an average day in the summertime, there are 100 kids out swimming in the pond and we rent out thirty to sixty paddle-boards a day, or canoes, or kayaks out on the pond. In the summertime it's just a busy, busy place," says Stan Kolby, the owner of Idaho River Sports.

Kolby has 15 people on staff in summer. His numbers may be small on their own, but taken as a whole, outdoor recreation businesses are fueling Idaho's economy.

A recent report from the Outdoor Industry Association shows that over 77,000 people in Idaho are employed in something relating to outdoor recreation, and the industry has generated over $6.3 billion in consumer spending.