Colorado Gains Insights from New Recreation Industry Director

Connor Hall photo

By Ryan Rodriguez 

Conor Hall has been named Outdoor Recreation Industry Office (OREC) Director by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT).

Graduating ΦBK from Earlham College in 2013, Hall’s degree in political science and government has propelled him into Colorado’s outdoor recreation industry with additional missions of saving the environment and promoting sustainable and healthy living.

“I am thrilled to join OEDIT and partner with Colorado communities, and our world-class business and NGO leadership,” said Hall in a press release announcing his new position.

His credentials make him more than suited to the task. Prior to joining OREC and OEDIT,  Hall served as conservation finance director for The Trust for Public Land where he oversaw conservation strategies, advocacy, and government relations. He also served as vice president for The Trust for Public Land Action Fund, a nonprofit organization supporting land and nature conservation. Previous roles include his time as senior advisor on climate and conservation for Michael Bloomberg’s 2020 presidential campaign, as well as director of external affairs and senior advisor for Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.

Indeed, Hall’s task in overseeing OREC is a great one. “It is a $63 billion industry, with 500,000 jobs, or nearly 20 percent of the workforce, related to the outdoor recreation industry,” he said. “It is one of the true lifebloods of this state, not to mention a huge part of Colorado’s brand and identity.”

In 2020 alone, consumers spent $9.6 billion in Colorado’s outdoor recreation industry. The industry also contributed 120,000 positions to the job market. As Hall explained, “92-3% of Coloradans recreate outdoors every year, so it’s one of those things that unify the state in a really powerful way.”

“We’re working on stewardship conservation pieces, working to create more equitable access to nature around the state, and solidifying the link between public health and outdoor recreation,” Hall said. “In addition, attracting business to Colorado, as well as educating and cultivating new talent, is how we help grow the industry and allow Colorado to prosper overall.”

Hall cites his liberal arts background as a key contributor to his professional success. “It was a huge positive influence. My education at Earlham College and the liberal arts component of it—the fact that I was taking all kinds of different courses and engaging in new sectors and disciplines—was incredibly helpful.” Expressing his gratitude, he went on to relate what it offered him. “Throughout my career, I’ve been a bit of a generalist. And that interdisciplinary background really helped me critically examine information as well as keep an open and empathetic mind. It was invaluable to me.”

Hall also shared how he spent his time post-graduation and how this formative period allowed him to develop. “There’s no one set or correct path. Everyone has their own path, and mine was certainly unique. I spent over a year traveling the world after graduation. I was doing research and advising foreign governments and nonprofits on global climate policy for a time. I worked as a bartender in Bolivia. I hiked the Camino de Santiago in Spain. All those experiences helped me take what I learned in the classroom and apply it in real life. It’s the moving of the philosophical to the real and very tangible.”

Relating these experiences, Hall was confident in his words of advice for new Phi Beta Kappa graduates. “Be open to your own path, and remember to do things that fulfill you, both personally and professionally. And always remember to be empathetic. Being ΦBK means you’re intelligent and resourceful. But remember to always ground that in empathy. You can always learn—you can always listen.”

Hall assumed office on February 22, 2022. To learn more about OREC, visit their website.

Ryan Rodriguez is a senior at Rutgers University majoring in English literature. He was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa there in May 2021. Rutgers University is home to the Alpha of New Jersey chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.