The Opportunity

How Did We Get Here?

The Intermountain West has captured the minds and imaginations of generations seeking opportunities as grand as the landscapes themselves. Historically, these opportunities have been realized through extractive industries like mining, timber, and grazing, thanks to the region's extensive natural resources and public lands. However, for the last several decades, these extractive industries have declined in comparison to other place-based industries such as tourism and outdoor recreation.  These shifting economic drivers have led to widespread cultural changes as well.



Extractive industries are subject to boom and bust cycles in the economy. Adding to this challenge, automation and globalized economic influences have reduced the number of available jobs in these once core economic sectors. Communities in the Intermountain West must diversify their economies to be more resilient to these cycles of change.  In recent decades, industries like outdoor recreation and service-based tourism have created new jobs and diversified local economies. The figure below shows how this difference in job growth since 1940. 


This transition has ushered in a vibrancy of tourism and real estate development into these communities. Yet this process is not without challenge. While service industry positions dominate the current job market, the wages have remained stubbornly low when compared to logging and mining.  


In this challenge, the RECREATE Institute sees opportunity. We work with stakeholders in the rural Intermountain West to harness the momentum of this transition for a brighter future by leveraging resources from Western’s School of Business and Outdoor Industry MBA program to empower forward thinking communities and their entrepreneurs for greater economic diversity and increased resilience.