The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) is a regional economic development agency that represents a partnership of federal, state, and local government. The Growing Outdoors partnership is led by Mountain BizWorks and includes the Outdoor Gear Builders of Western North Carolina, Western Carolina University, Burke Development Inc., Graham County Economic Development, Mitchell County Economic Development Commission, the Southwestern Commission, Natural Capital Investment Fund, and the NC Outdoor Recreation Industry Office. Many additional partners will be engaged throughout the project.

Mountain BizWorks provides enterprising individuals across Western North Carolina with the resources they need to start and grow a successful small business. We believe that any individual with a dream of business ownership should have a fair shot regardless of means or background. Since 1989, through our lending and peer learning programs, we’ve made over $25 million in loans to 1,400 WNC entrepreneurs that now collectively support over 5,500 jobs. Mountain BizWorks is a U.S. Treasury certified non-profit community development financial institution (CDFI). Learn more at
The Outdoor Gear Builders of WNC is a coalition of Western North Carolina-based outdoor companies collaborating to share talents, encourage new ideas and inspire each other. Our member brands are dedicated to creating exceptional outdoor gear with a focus on responsible manufacturing, cutting edge innovation, and economic growth in our region. Our motto is: “Extraordinary Gear Made Here.” Learn more at
Western Carolina University is the westernmost institution in the UNC system and provides comprehensive educational opportunities to residents in the state’s western region and attracts students from around the globe to explore the region’s vast natural diversity. WCU has an excellent track record in designing new programs responsive to regional industry needs. Learn more at
Natural Capital Investment Fund is a certified CDFI that has been active in supporting natural resource-based businesses in WNC since 2008. During this time, NCIF has made 80 loans totaling $17.1m, 14 of which have been to outdoor gear and recreation-related businesses. Learn more at
Burke Development Inc. is the lead economic development agency for Burke County, a coal-impacted community. BDI has a strong track record in supporting industry sector development (e.g. co-founded the Carolina Textile District) and Burke is home to many small manufacturers with potential to expand with the outdoor industry. Learn more at
Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce has been serving Mitchell County, a coal-impacted community, for over 50 years. Mitchell is situated between three of the biggest mountains in the eastern US and has a strong manufacturing heritage as well as a vibrant entrepreneurial and craft community, making it a perfect location for expanding outdoor recreation. Learn more at
Graham County is a rural and trade-affected community in NC’s Mountain West. Graham County has a strong manufacturing heritage, is home to two of NC’s most remarkable lakes as well as some of its most iconic old growth forest, and is strategically located between Asheville, Atlanta, Chattanooga, and Knoxville, making it ideally suited for growing businesses with strong ties to the outdoors. Learn more at
Southwestern Commission serves as the regional planning for the 7 westernmost counties in NC, including several coal-impacted communities. The Commission has expertise in outdoor recreation planning and will also provide linkages to the other regional councils of government in the region. Learn more at
The NC Outdoor Recreation Industry Office housed at the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC) is a new state-level office with a mission to support, promote, and expand outdoor recreation employment opportunities in NC as well as the attributes that make the industry thrive here.. Learn more at

This project is possible due to support from the Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER initiative.

 The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) is a regional economic development agency that represents a partnership of federal, state, and local government. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia. Learn more at