Outdoor Economics Conference and Expo puts Farmington in spotlight
Diverse group expected to attend three-day event at Civic Center
- The event begins on the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 29 and continues through Friday, Oct. 1.
- The event includes panel discussions, breakout sessions, a film festival, social gatherings and outdoor tours.
- The conference and expo are being presented by Outdoor New Mexico.
FARMINGTON — Hundreds of outdoor recreation enthusiasts, business people and government officials are expected to converge here this week when the 2021 Outdoor Economics Conference and Expo takes place at the Farmington Civic Center.
The event begins on the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 29 and continues through Friday, Oct. 1. It includes panel discussions, breakout sessions, a film festival, social gatherings and outdoor tours.
It features appearances by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, Economic Development Secretary Alicia Keyes, Public Lands Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard, Tourism Secretary Jen Schroer and State Parks Director Toby Velasquez.
The conference and expo are being presented by Outdoor New Mexico, a Las Cruces-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the protection, appreciation, sustainable management, appropriate recreational use and economic benefits of the state's outdoor areas.
As the host city for the event, Farmington has a big role to play in supplying information to those attending the conference, helping secure hotel rooms for them and attending to the logistics of the event, said Warren Unsicker, the city's economic development director.
Having the conference here also is validation of the strides San Juan County has made in recent years to build an outdoor recreation-based economy and an opportunity to showcase local attractions, he said.
"Event the excursions are an opportunity for people to see what San Juan County and Farmington are all about," he said, explaining that those attending the expo will have the chance to go mountain biking, fly fishing, rafting or hiking, or play golf.
Unsicker said the event attracts a diverse mix of people, and the annual conference — now in its fourth year — allows them to hear about best practices related to the field, as well as the chance to hear directly from federal and state officials who manage outdoor attractions.
"It brings attention to the fact that we're highly invested in this," Unsicker said of San Juan County's push to capitalize on its outdoor recreation opportunities. "We want to make a big splash in the community, and this is proof positive we're going in the right direction."
Unsicker said the effort by various government and private partners in San Juan County to promote outdoor economics has been diverse.
"In some areas, it's well on its way, and in other areas it's still in its infancy," he said. "But a big accomplishment is the unified push we're seeing. The level of collaboration and synergy we're experiencing among institutions here is unprecedented."
The county also has made great progress in adding new attractions, he said.
"Even in a short time, we have added a lot of trails," he said. "The speed with which that has happened is also astounding."
Unsicker said he wasn't sure how many out-of-state visitors would be at the conference and expo. But when he attended the Summer Outdoor Sports Retail Expo & Conference in Denver in August, he said many of the attendees he spoke to were excited to hear about the event in Farmington and expressed interest in it.
The event is a great opportunity to market Farmington to other people in New Mexico, he said, especially as the idea of "staycations" — short, close-to-home excursions that don't require air travel — catches fire in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He also said it will provide him with a chance to reach out to folks who already are making their living in the outdoor recreation area and pitch them on the idea of considering Farmington as an expansion location or even a site for a manufacturing facility.
Registration for the conference portion of the event is $85, but Unsicker said the expo itself is free and open to the public.
Call 575-635-5615 or visit outdooreconomics.com for more information.
Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.