Rachel VandeVoort

Participants in the Montana Office of Outdoor Recreation’s outdoor lab gather around the fire at Whitefish Lake State Park, Oct. 10, 2019.
Aaron Bolton

The Montana Governor’s Office is searching for new ways to tap into the state’s outdoor economy — an economic engine already fueled by more than $7 billion spent in the state each year. The Office of Outdoor Recreation hosted what it billed as its first innovation lab in Whitefish, Thursday.

Montana's outdoor recreation activities.
Outdoor Recreation And Montana's Economy report, Headwaters Economics.

A growing set of business owners, non-profits and agencies in Montana are trying to expand what we think of when we talk about the economic value of the outdoors here.

Marne Hayes is the executive director for Business for Montana’s Outdoors, a group that advocates for preserving Montana’s outdoor heritage. She says Montana itself — its rivers, forests and wide open spaces — offers a competitive advantage for attracting new businesses and a talented workforce to Montana.