Outdoors businesses could diversify local economy

The Farmington Convention and Visitors Bureau is promoting the manufacturing of outdoors-related items such as mountain bikes

Hannah Grover
  • The Farmington Convention and Visitors Bureau has been promoting outdoors tourism in relation to the "Jolt Your Journey" brand
Mike Wulfert, left, helps costumer Matthew Yazzie select a bike on Monday at his store 505 Cycles in Farmington. The city of Farmington is pushing to diversify the local economy with similar outdoors-oriented businesses.

FARMINGTON — New Mexico currently lags behind its neighboring states in terms of outdoor industries, but the Farmington Convention and Visitors Bureau hopes this will soon change.

"We're not capitalizing on our natural aspects," said Tonya Stinson, executive director of the Farmington Convention and Visitors Bureau.

According to the Outdoor Industry Association, New Mexico lags behind its neighboring states when it comes to outdoor industries.

About 68,000 people work in the outdoor recreation businesses in the state, compared to 122,400 in Utah and 124,600 in Colorado. In Oklahoma, the outdoors industries employ 95,300 people. In Texas, about 276,800 people work in the industry. This translates to $458 million in tax revenue in New Mexico compared to $856 million in Utah, $994 million in Colorado, $584 million in Oklahoma and $1.9 billion in Texas, according to the association.

The Farmington Convention and Visitors Bureau is working on a study analyzing the outdoors industries in Farmington and the surrounding area. This week, Stinson is presenting the information to the Farmington City Council and the San Juan County Commission.

"This is really a byproduct of the last three years of work as we branded Farmington," Stinson said.

She said the bureau is working with the same company contracted to do the branding initiative. That initiative led to the "Jolt Your Journey" tag, which is meant to associate the city with "a community where outdoor lovers and active families thrive."

505 Cycles as seen on Monday at 4301 East Main St. in Farmington.

One example of a city effort that helped boost the industry was focused on Farmington Lake. When the lake opened for swimming last year, the city allowed Paddle Shack to open a shop by the beach. The business rents out water craft and saw a large increase in rentals.

Stinson said the bureau would like to show industries that Farmington is a good location, particularly for manufacturing. She said products like mountain bikes can be built and tested locally and highlighted Jack's Plastic Welding, located in Aztec, as a manufacturing company that is successful.

Changes at the lake opened up new opportunities, Stinson said, and there are more similar opportunities. She said the bureau receives calls from people interested in local outdoors activities but the businesses that support such tourism are sometimes nonexistent. She said there are no guided raft tours on the local rivers, no places for people to go for guided horse rides and no tour guides to take people through the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area.

Shoes for sale as seen on Monday at  Southwest Runners in Farmington.

Some entrepreneurs have started businesses to address those deficiencies. About seven years ago, Jeri Hogue and her husband opened up Southwest Runners after noticing a lack of shoe stores catering to runners in the area. The store sells several brands of shoes and also provides gait analysis for runners to help them select shoes. Hogue said her family had to travel for hours to get running shoes for her children when they were running cross country.

Hogue said the area has a lot of opportunities for outdoor recreation and the elevation and trails make it a good place to "test your body."

"I think that there is a lot to do in Farmington," she said. "You just have to get out and do it."

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.