Director of Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office is stepping down

From: Luis Benitez <luis.benitez@state.co.us>
Date: March 6, 2019

Greetings,

It is with mixed emotions that I am writing to inform you of my transition out of my role as Director of the Outdoor Recreation Office at the Office of Economic Development and International Trade for the state of Colorado.

Four years ago when I accepted this job and moved down to Denver from the mountains… I had no idea how many extraordinary things we would accomplish together. Beyond the success in business recruitment and retention we have endeavored to help our community and our industry find a voice, a voice that has begun to shape the definition of not only who we are as a culture, but also what we stand for as a community.

The progress we’ve made is due to your passion, your dedication, and your belief in the soul of the outdoor industry, and in me. I will treasure this time in service to our state and am struck by the valiant efforts of the public servants and the civic and corporate leadership around the country who have been dedicated and selfless in this work to elevate our industry overall. Our goal when we started was to create a more broadly defined agenda to serve a greater purpose. The creation of our four pillars helped set the tone and tempo for that effort.

Economic Development. Re-defining how entrepreneurs and innovators acquire access to capital. Telling a broader story of the quality of life proposition that the ORec Industry creates for all economic sectors and regions of our state, and working alongside partners to define the scale and scope of our economy for Colorado and for the country.

Conservation and Stewardship. We endeavored to deepen the acumen and knowledge around stewardship through programs like the Leave No Trace partnership with Tourism. Partnering with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to begin the journey of reshaping how funds are collected and utilized for our most precious natural resources.

Education and Workforce Training. Establishing in partnership with academia how the talent pipeline for our multi-billion dollar economy will be both educated and grown. Creating everything from ORec Industry office scholarships for specific programs to assisting in the development and launch of the first ORec Industry MBA in the country.

Public Health and Wellness. Creating the 1st comprehensive, state-wide report exploring the intersection between public health and the outdoor industry with a goal of influencing the conversation both in Colorado and across the country regarding how we define health care and its intersection with natural spaces.

All of these things in an effort to ensure that the thought leadership for our ecosystem in some way would reside within our state borders. If this was the sum total of our efforts I believe we would have much to celebrate, but managing also to entice the Outdoor Retailer Show and VF Corp and a host of other companies to move to Colorado means that we also ensured the security of the “bully pulpit” to tell our collective story for years to come.

We have also ensured that the coalition of states will continue to strengthen through our Confluence Accords. www.confluenceofstates.com With eight signatory states and many more slated to ratify in 2019, it is clear that the country agrees with our efforts. This work can and must continue.

None of this would have been possible without the support of Governor Hickenlooper and Governor Polis. Governor Hickenlooper created and believed in a vision that our industry deserves a voice at the highest levels, and Governor Polis remains steadfast that our big bold vision can and must continually evolve and improve.

In a former lifetime as both an Outward Bound instructor and a mountain guide, the saying went that your ultimate job is to put yourself out of a job, ensuring that the people that you are leading have the skills and the acumen to thrive without you. I feel like we have reached that place together, and the time has come for me to step aside. I will be joining VF as the new VP of Government Relations and Global Impact. My last day serving as the Director for the Outdoor Recreation Industry office will be March 22nd.

I know you will join me in supporting our soon to be new Director and Deputy Director Nathan Fey for the office as they will now be the ones responsible for the over watch of our ecosystem. They bring a depth and width of experience to this office that I could only dream of when thinking of successors for these roles. Reach out and share your encouragement and ideas, for that great collective vision is indeed what makes us so powerful. There is still much work to do, as we continue to focus on diversity and inclusivity within our industry, discover new modalities of “pay to play” to take care of our most treasured natural resources, and always above all else continue to get the next generation outside, educated, and engaged.

This role and these adventures that we have had along the way will be some of the most treasured memories of my life so from the bottom of my heart, thank you for your trust, and your continued belief that the outdoor industry truly can change the world.

Yours in Service,

Luis Benitez
Director, Outdoor Recreation Industry Office
Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade