DENVER (CBS4)– The Colorado official credited with some of the biggest economic achievements in the state in the past few years is stepping down to let someone else lead the Outdoor Recreation Industry Office. Luis Benitez essentially created the office and created a blueprint for the rest of the country.
“The driving force and idea behind the office is to help people, industry and communities come to life through Colorado’s great outdoors,” Benitez said. “When you’re talking about an industry worth $60 billion in consumer spending and over 500,000 Colorado jobs, that’s over 10 percent of Colorado’s economy.”
The Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office was only the second in the country. Now there are nearly a dozen and many have been modeled after what Benitez established.
“Governor Hickenlooper could have easily said, ‘Keep this to Colorado. This is a Colorado thing. It’s Colorado magic. It’s our secret sauce. Don’t share that with anybody.’ And instead he did the exact opposite. He said, ‘Go out and help these other states create this. Share our road map. Share what we’ve done,’” he said.
What hasn’t been shared is the economic success. Benitez played a role in bringing the lucrative Outdoor Retailer show to Denver. He also helped land VF Corp’s new headquarters in Denver bringing hundreds of jobs. There’s even been smaller accomplishments like joining Leave No Trace practices with the Colorado Tourism Office.
“We’re the only state in the country to have a formal relationship between Leave No Trace and a tourism Division. The only one. And I think that says something about how Colorado operates,” he said.
The office has found success joining the industry with new found political might.
“I think in the outdoor industry we’ve moved past this belief that just making a cool product is enough. right? You have to stand for something and I think what our offices do is galvanize that voice, that message,” he said.
Benitez will leave his government job in a week. He leaves big shoes to fill, but he believes Colorado is well positioned to continue to thrive.
“Without the correct promotion, protection and utilization of our natural resources that gigantic economic engine will cease to exist,” he said. “I’m excited about what the future potential holds for what this could look like in 10 years.”