Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) hailed the introduction Friday of S. 704, the U.S. OUTDOOR Act, by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID. The legislation is OIA’s signature trade initiative and is the realization of several years of development and consultation between OIA, outdoor industry apparel manufacturers, the U.S. textile industry and the bill’s Senate sponsors.
Original cosponsors include Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Michael Enzi (R-WY), Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).
“OIA, Senator Wyden and Senator Crapo have worked for several years with a variety of stakeholders to develop this well balanced legislation that invests in the outdoor recreation economy and supports our industry’s core mission of environmental awareness and sustainability,” said OIA President and CEO Frank Hugelmeyer. “We believe that this bill will encourage innovation, lower costs for outdoor companies, create jobs in the United States and, promote outdoor recreation on America’s public lands by making quality outdoor apparel more affordable for Americans seeking to get outside. We look forward to seeing the U.S. OUTDOOR Act enacted.”
A recent study by The Outdoor Foundation found that among young adults ages 18 to 24, hesitation about spending money on gear and equipment is the third most cited reason limiting outdoor activities, The U.S. OUTDOOR Act specifically addresses an unnecessary barrier to participation in outdoor activities by Americans. The disproportionately high tariffs assessed against recreational performance outerwear can add as much as 28 percent to its retail cost.
“The U.S. OUTDOOR Act is about encouraging our kids and members of our community to get outside, to be active, and to appreciate and protect our natural treasures,” Senator Wyden said. “This is good for U.S. manufacturers that are a significant participant in the outdoor apparel supply chain, as well as to American consumers who bear the brunt of those high tariffs.”
The U.S. Optimal Use of Trade to Develop Outerwear and Outdoor Recreation (OUTDOOR) Act incorporates three critical components: (1) it creates unique classifications specific to recreational performance outerwear – high-tech apparel, designed especially for outdoor recreation such as hiking, biking, skiing or snowboarding, hunting, fishing, paddling and other recreational activities – in the U.S. Harmonized Tariff Schedule; (2) it eliminates the disproportionately high tariffs on these products while preserving the competitiveness of U.S.-based manufacturing; and (3) supports U.S. jobs and technologies focused on sustainable apparel supply chains.
The U.S. OUTDOOR Act is based on a 2007 U.S. International Trade Commission report (Inv. No. 332-479) that confirmed there to be no commercially viable production of recreational performance outerwear in the United States. OIA worked closely with outdoor apparel manufacturers and U.S. producers of textiles and performance fabrics to ensure the legislation does not impede any U.S. production. The bill will, in fact, help add to the six million jobs in the outdoor industry, stimulate the $289 billion in annual retail sales and services and grow active outdoor recreation’s $730 billion annual contribution to the U.S. economy while investing in U.S.-based innovations that will lead to sustainable, environmentally friendly products.
“Columbia Sportswear thanks Senator Wyden for introducing the U.S. OUTDOOR Act,” said Tim Boyle, president and chief executive officer of Oregon-based Columbia Sportswear Company. “We support passage of this important legislation because it will help spur product innovation, make performance outerwear more affordable, promote healthy outdoor-focused lifestyles, and stimulate job growth.”
The coalition that developed the legislation included a broad spectrum of the outdoor industry, involving companies that manufacture a diversity of recreational performance outerwear.
“In the unique position of being both a domestic manufacturer of paddle sports apparel and an importer of the same, Kokatat, Inc. worked closely on the U.S. OUTDOOR Act with OIA and other outdoor industry members to ensure that unique outdoor technical performance wear was distinguished from general apparel,” said Steve O’Meara, founder of the 40-year old U.S. manufacturing business. “Eliminating the high tariffs on these technical outdoor products will save Kokatat money and allow that saved money to go towards investing in our U.S. factory and employees. And, hopefully, more affordable outdoor apparel will encourage Americans to get outdoors more and pursue a healthier lifestyle.”
The U.S. OUTDOOR Act not only helps lower costs for outdoor industry businesses and their customers, but complements OIA’s work to get more Americans active on public lands through our support of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative – a federal effort to create a conservation and recreation agenda for the 21st century and our support of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Outside, a program working to get kids active.
Outdoor industry member executives will be in Washington, D.C. next week at the 2011 OIA Capitol Summit to build Senate support for the U.S. OUTDOOR Act and discuss the importance of investing in the innovation and jobs that sustain the outdoor industry.