It’s exciting to be here today and to meet so many people who share my passion for the outdoors.My name is Pete Eshelman and I am the director of outdoor branding for the Roanoke Regional Partnership. I’ll get to what this position means and what I do in just a second.The Roanoke Regional Partnership is the a regional economic development organization serving Alleghany, Botetourt, Franklin, and Roanoke Counties. The cities of Salem and Roanoke, and the town of Vinton.We promote the region as a business location to companies worldwide.Working with government and business partners, the Partnership has created more than 13,400 jobs and brought in more than $1.3 billion in investment.
This past summer we partnered with The Gear Junkie and gave away $40,000 worth of outdoor gear via a Treasure Hunt at Explore Park. The event was limited to 300 people (and we hit that mark). We had participants from 15 states, including Hawaii. An event like this had never been done before and was picked up by all the big outdoor blogs including Backpacker, Outside, and National Geographic Adventure.
If you remember, one of our steps involves Identifying Gaps. Early on we identified the need for a signature event that would have a national profile. The Outdoor Industry Association puts out an annual Participation Report. And, American’s favorite outdoor activity with regards to frequency of participation is running, with 65 billion outings per year, or 79 outings per runner. We also recognized that, for the most part, Roanoke had not embraced the Blue Ridge Parkway to the extent that Asheville had. We put 2 and 2 together and came up with the Blue Ridge Marathon. But we didn’t want to create an ordinary marathon – because Roanoke isn’t an ordinary city. We wanted to create a tough one.
It took a letter from six congressmen in both VA and NC to get the National Park Service to approve our permit but it was worth the wait. For most events, but in particular marathons, your inaugural run is the most important one…it can make or break an event. Runners talk to other runners and if you do a bad job they’ll tell others. But Roanoke hit a home run on this one. After the 2010 race we hired a company to conduct a survey of participants and we received a 99% satisfaction from the participants. We then had the Roanoke Valley Alleghany Regional Commission run this data through some fancy economic impact program they have and as a result we are able to show CLICK - that the Blue Ridge MarathonHad a $346,776 economic impact on the local economy and donated $20,000 to Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which isn’t bad for its first year, and considering the delay in permit approval delayed our marketing by 3 months. 34 states were represented including 2 people from England who chose this event for their first visit to the U.S. So, how to you top such a great inaugural race…by making it harder of course. The 2011 course is even hillier. It has over 7200’ of elevation change which allows us to call it America’s Toughest Road Marathon. For most marathon runners, running the Boston Marathon is on their Bucket List…our goal is to add the Blue Ridge Marathon to their list but for a different reason…so they can say they did it. The Blue Ridge Marathon’s potential is great. Plans for 2011 include more community involvement (including more live music along the course), a community art contest, more events at the finish line including kid friendly stuff like a climbing wall, getting local merchants more involved by offering discounts to anyone wearing a finisher medal, and we are going to focus more attention on the half marathon including initiatives to get people to form teams to walk the half marathon. We want to do our part to make Roanoke a more healthy community. We want this event to draw people internationally but to also be appealing to our own residents.
Developing an Asset: RoanokeOutside.com
More than 3 out of 4 Americans Engage in Outdoor Recreation<br />Supports nearly 6.5 million jobs across the U.S. (1 out of 20 workers)<br />Generates $88 billion in annual state and national tax revenue<br />More camp than play basketball and more paddle (canoe, kayak, raft) than play soccer <br />The number of Americans who bicycle is double the population of Canada <br />The Outdoor Recreation Economy employs 5x more people than Wal-Mart, the world’s largest private employer<br />
What is the Outdoor Recreation Economy?<br />It’s a $730 Billion Annual Contribution to the U.S. Economy<br />On a Virginia level <br /><ul><li> $18.7 billion industry
Provides $1.2 billion in state and local tax revenue</li></li></ul><li>
Outdoor Assets<br />The most visited National Park in the U.S. – Blue Ridge Parkway<br />The longest footpath in the U.S. – Appalachian Trail<br />The most photographed point along the Appalachian Trail – McAfee Knob<br />The 2nd largest municipal park in the U.S. – Carvins Cove Nature Reserve<br />Smith Mountain Lake<br />Mountain Bike trails ranked in Top 5 according to Outside TV<br />More than 600 miles of trails and 20 miles of greenways<br />Four State Parks <br />Four large lakes ideal for boating, fishing, and water sports <br />Two major rivers – James and New Rivers<br />World-class fishing can be found on the region’s numerous wild and stocked streams and lakes<br />
Build National Image<br />“This should get 6 stars. While challenging, it was so beautiful! My iPod stayed in my belt the entire time. It was like watching the best nature movie ever.”<br />$346,776<br />“Roanoke, VA is the friendliest place I have been to in a long while. All I have to say is WOW, the locations supported this thing like they were all running it.”<br />