The National Recreation and Park Association and George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis explored the role that quality park amenities play in 21st century regional economic development. Based on conversations with more than 70 park and recreation professionals, economic development practitioners and site-location consultants, this report highlights the important supporting role parks and recreation in recruiting and retaining businesses and skilled workers.
Parks and recreation support environmental stewardship and promotes health and wellness in communities across the United States. Less appreciated are these agencies’ many contributions to economic prosperity. Park and recreation agencies employ hundreds of thousands of people while their operations and capital spending generate significant economic activity. Moreover, local parks shape perceptions of and enhance the quality of life in communities.
This study builds on previous NRPA research on the economic importance of local park and recreation agencies by exploring the role that quality park amenities play in 21st century regional economic development. It reviews the impact that a community’s quality of life has on its ability to attract and retain business and a talented workforce. This report also identifies opportunities where local parks officials can better engage with their communities’ economic development entities.
- Park and recreation departments are significant employers, and their operations and capital spending generate significant economic impacts on local communities.
- Investments in improving a community’s quality of life create a virtuous cycle: high quality-of-life locations attract workers, which attract employers, which in turn attract even more investments and jobs.
- High-quality parks and recreation can play a pivotal role in attracting and retaining quality businesses.
- Active engagement with companies and workers influence business expansion decisions and attract new residents to a community.
- Key partners to drive greater parks and recreation involvement in economic development planning and activities include:
- Municipal departments that shape quality of life (e.g., public schools, public libraries, transit agencies)
- Shapers of the built environment (e.g., private sector developers, downtown development organizations, business improvement districts, metropolitan planning organizations)
- Neighboring park and recreation agencies and private non-profit competitors (e.g., YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs)
You can read the full report and dig deeper into the insights through 14 mini-case studies highlighting how park and recreation agencies serve in a vital role to attract and retain businesses and skilled workers.