As you enjoy the thrill of riding down DuPont’s Big Rock Trail, or take in the breathtaking views as you cycle along the Blue Ridge Parkway, you probably aren’t dwelling upon the economic impact you’re having on Transylvania County. But outdoor recreation has played a vital role in the evolution of our local economy, and will continue to do so for years to come.
It wasn’t that long ago that the local economy took a serious hit with the loss of large scale manufacturing jobs. During the time, the technological advancements in outdoor gear – everything from rock climbing gear to fishing tackle to mountain bikes – made it easier for people to fall in love with new outdoor activities. There has also been a cultural shift: people are more active and more health conscious, and they’re seeking places where they can immerse themselves in an outdoor lifestyle.
No one is a better example of this than Dale Katechis, founder of Oskar Blues Brewery. It was primarily mountain biking – along with access to clean water – that brought Katechis to Brevard. Part of his business philosophy is that that if you focus on people and quality of life, the jobs and the money will follow.
“We try to focus on what has allowed us to grow to our size,” he said. “That’s good people and making sure they enjoy what they do.”
Since the brewery opened in 2012, Katechis has invested about $25 million at their Brevard facility. The plant, which happens to have direct access to the Brevard Area Trail System and Pisgah Forest, started with 20 employees, and now employs 43.
“We do over 100,000 barrels a year, and our five year plan is to double that,” said Katechis. “We’ll add an additional 20 jobs in that period of time, which will bring us to about 70 jobs. All of those folks are certainly earning more than a living wage.”
“It’s obvious this is a lifestyle we’re trying to live, which leads us to places like Brevard,” he said. “You find real people there for the right reasons, and there’s nothing that has to be forced. You end up making pretty easy decisions because there’s one mentality. That’s what I enjoy about Oskar Blues, which takes the pressure off me to have to dictate any initiative. People just get it.”
Embracing the community, Katechis has given nearly $200,000 to local organizations through the CAN’d Aid Foundation, a charitable arm of his business. They recently committed to partially funding a new jump line on the Bracken Mountain Preserve, and gave $12,250 to the Friends of DuPont National Forest for rerouting Rocky Ridge trail. Other beneficiaries have included the Cindy Platt Boys & Girls Club, Muddy Sneakers, MountainTrue, Rise & Shine Freedom School and Brevard Academy.
The local natural resources have drawn many people here who, like Katechis, thrive off the mountain vibe, and end up starting companies like Öhlins, Endless Bikes, Liquid Logic, Misty Mountain and Industry Nine, all of which make award-winning products that undergo real world testing in our area.
Tom Dempsey, the owner of SylvanSport trailers, is another local employer whose business is tied to outdoor recreation. Dempsey’s award-winning camping utility trailers require trade skills like welding, and he is expanding to make room for more orders this year. But Dempsey isn’t only concerned with his own business. He wants to create more jobs for everyone that center on the outdoor recreation world.
Dempsey said his objective is to promote the fact that North Carolina is one of the top five outdoor economies in the country, and is the biggest player on the east coast, by far. Typically, western states like Washington, Utah and Oregon have dominated the outdoor recreation sector. But the state’s cost of living, mild winters and ease of access are taking North Carolina to the brink of becoming a powerhouse in outdoor lifestyle and commerce.
On a national scale, the Outdoor Industry Association reported that outdoor manufacturing and recreation created 6.1 million jobs and $80 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue. Dempsey pointed out that the Outdoor Recreation Act, signed into law by President Obama last year, recognized outdoor recreation as a component of that nations GDP “to the tune of $650 billion annually.”
“That’s a sizeable chunk,” said Dempsey. “Most people don’t realize how big the sector is. Translating that to the state of North Carolina, my objective is to illuminate and promote it.”
According to an Outdoor Industry Association report, outdoor recreation in North Carolina generates $19.2 billion in consumer spending, $5.6 billion in wages and salaries, $1.3 billion in state and local tax revenue, and 192,000 direct jobs.
Dempsey said he and other outdoor recreation professionals across the state are presenting this information to legislators, hoping to create allies in their efforts. There are 40 such companies in the western region, many of which come together to showcase their products at the Outdoor Gear Builder event in Asheville each spring. The following are some of the local innovators in the outdoor recreation industry.
The gravel and dirt road scene is growing. Two big dirt and gravel races take place right here in Brevard, The Dirt Diggler and the Pisgah Monster Cross. Gravel road races are also an entry point into cycling for many people: athletes don’t have to worry about much traffic and the routes are less technical than your average mountain bike race.
Learn more about Grava Bikes, gravel road racing and the people behind the company at www.gravabike.com.
Since the company’s founding in 1976, Swedish brand Öhlins has represented the pinnacle of suspension technology. Getting its start in motor vehicle suspension, Öhlins’ patented TTX and STX technology are now available for most mountain bikes. The RXF 36 fork paired with the STX rear shock is the ideal tool to take mountain biking to the next level.
With the U.S. subsidiary located right in Hendersonville, it gives local shops great access to both products and support. The Öhlins shop itself is overflowing with specialized tools, products, and talent to help service the entire North American market. There are multiple service bays to ensure that the workflow is handled quickly and thoroughly.
As the MTB product line expands, the team at Öhlins looks forward to utilizing Pisgah’s technical trails to help tune and test the best suspension Sweden has to offer.
For more information visit www.ohlinsusa.com.
ENDLESS BIKE COMPANY
Endless Bike Company is a one-woman show run by Shanna “Endlessbikegirl” Powell. With its roots in singlespeed mountain bike components, Endless offered the bicycle industry’s first aluminum singlespeed cog. Endless is growing and adding more drivetrain options to the colorful component lineup, which includes Kick Ass Cogs, Fibonacci Spacer Kits, The 1 Ring and The Odd 1. Endless manufactures all of their components in Asheville and Shanna’s softgood line is made entirely in the USA.
Being a lover of all bikes, Shanna can be found on the trails of Pisgah National Forest on her singlespeed, on a pump track or on her downhill bike at whatever bike park she can find.
Her parts can be found at www.endlessbikes.com or at various independent bicycle shops around the globe.
CANE CREEK CYCLING COMPONENTS
Cane Creek Cycling Components’ mission is to dream and build great products that make riders smile. Located in Fletcher, this small but innovative company operates as a team of passionate individuals working to challenge cycling industry standards. Cane Creek believes that performance can always be improved, and driving the advancement of performance is Cane Creek’s instinct.
Cane Creek recently launched a new Double Barrel product, the DBAir IL, an “in-line” style air shock that packs all of the twin-tube technology of the original Double Barrel into a smaller, more compact package. They also debuted their first fork, the Helm, earlier this year. The fork features seven independent adjustments, robust construction, and a ride quality that is definably Cane Creek. All suspension products from Cane Creek are hand assembled in their Fletcher facility and have earned numerous accolades for their esteemed reputation.
Visit www.canecreek.com to learn more.
Weevil Outdoor Supply Company
Weevil Outdoor Supply Company in Horseshoe is a lifestyle brand that combines its unique sense of style with quality products and services that help inspire people to “Get Off the Couch and Go Outside.”
Their philosophy was shaped by their recollection of the way life used to be, a lifestyle and mindset of youthful simplicity that was exciting and fun! With a desire to desert the everyday standard, Weevil provides unique, clean designs and quality products that consumers will be proud to wear. Featuring outdoor-inspired designs that transition off the trail, Weevil’s products are designed by people who want to experience and share their passion for the outdoors.
For more information go to www.weeviloutdoor.com.
Industry Nine is an Asheville-based bicycle wheel company where 25 people make everything they produce. They are a diverse group with diverse job descriptions, and they all wear many different hats. Marketing, anodizing, hub assembly and wheel truing might all be in one day’s work – and usually is. Their wheels are built in their Asheville facility. They outsource rims and bearings…that’s it. Design, manufacturing, quality control, sales, assembly, truing and tensioning are all done in-house where they can keep close tabs on tolerances and quality. In a time where the bike industry is constantly moving production overseas to increase margins, Industry Nine firmly believes in keeping their production in-house.
To learn more, visit www.industrynine.com.
Bike packing may not get the adrenaline surging like a downhill run, but there is a growing group of cyclists with the urge to pedal into the middle of nowhere and set up camp. Multi-day stage racing is growing in popularity also. The Trans North Georgia is the closest multi-day race to western North Carolina, and covers over 350 miles through the mountains of north Georgia. Many of these races are self-supported and are a test of logistics, fitness and endurance.
RockGeist, a manufacturer of high-end bike packing gear, serves to meet the needs of these trends. Gear needs to be able to withstand the unthinkable, from epic rainstorms to dry desert conditions. Riders need to carry food, camping gear and be prepared for emergencies. All RockGeist products are designed and built by Greg Hardy.
“I’ve tested most of these designs myself, all in Pisgah,” said Hardy. “That’s the fun part. I take it out for a weekend, take notes, and make modifications. Designs can always be optimized and I hear from all the athletes that use my gear. I get a lot of feedback from the cycling community.”
On a bike-packing trip, Hardy’s fully loaded bike weighs about 45 pounds. “I can carry a small sleeping bag, shelter, fuel for a small stove, but most of the weight is in food and water,” he said. He typically parks his car, straps all his camping gear on his bike and pedals eight or nine miles into the woods in search of the perfect camping spot. He still hasn’t found it, though. Pisgah is a big place.
His best selling piece is the Trillium Honey Pot feedbag. Designed to allow riders easy access to food without having to unzip anything or get off the bike, the Honey Pot resembles a rock climbing chalk bag. Hardy said that after the Honey Pot was featured on bikepacking.com, orders started coming in.
He uses Expack in his gear, a waterproof and UV resistant laminate material that is used to make sail cloth. He also uses Cordura, which Hardy said is used in most high-end backpacking gear due to its durability.
Hardy takes custom orders for each bike, and works with custom colors also. While RockGeist is not his full-time gig, he is working on expanding and is constantly looking for new ideas and ways to improve.
To learn more about RockGeist, visit www.rockgeist.com.