After hearing “more of the same” from Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, leaders in the outdoors and recreation industry decided Thursday to move their twice-yearly convention, Outdoor Retailer, out of Salt Lake City “as soon as possible,” severing a 20-year relationship that generates about $45 million annually to the metropolitan area.
The move came after the Outdoor Industry Association, which represents 1,200 outdoor businesses, was joined by Outdoor Retailer, Patagonia, The North Face, and REI in a teleconference Thursday with Gov. Herbert, whose efforts to overturn the recently designated Bears Ears National Monument enflamed longstanding concerns about anti-public lands positions from state representatives.
“It is important to our membership, and to our bottom line, that we partner with states and elected officials who share our views on the truly unique American value of public lands for the people and conserving our outdoor heritage for the next generation,” Amy Roberts, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association, said in a statement Thursday.
The biannual shows bring gear manufacturers and retailers together to promote the latest items for outdoor travel and recreation. Outdoor Retailer annually brings about $45 million in direct spending to the Wasatch Front, and spreads another $300 million or so across the rest of the state. Its contract with Salt Lake City ends in 2018.
“We are doing the work necessary to procure an alternative location for Outdoor Retailer,” said Marisa Nicholson, show director for Outdoor Retailer. “Though we may wish it different, this is far from a snap-of-the-fingers thing to make happen. ... Salt Lake City has been hospitable to Outdoor Retailer and our industry for the past 20 years, but we are in lockstep with the outdoor community and are working on finding our new home.”
Gov. Herbert recently signed a resolution passed by the state legislature asking President Trump to overturn then-President Obama’s December designation of Bears Ears National Monument, a 1.35-million-acre rugged redrock landscape rich in Native American history. That prompted some companies, led by Patagonia, to announce that they would boycott the summer show, and urged others to join them. Others, like REI, were committed to attending. The uproar led to Thursday’s call with the governor.
But that is just the latest move by Utah officials that has drawn the ire of conservationists. Earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz withdrew legislation that would have transferred 3 million acres of land from federal to state ownership after feedback from his constituents, including hunters and fishermen. And U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, chair of the House Resources Committee, has been critical of the Antiquities Act, which was used by Obama to create Bears Ears.
In the call with Gov. Herbert, the OIA requested that his administration reverse its position on four items:
- Revoke support for the sale or transfer of America’s public lands to the states and cease legal action to that effect.
- Cease on any effort to nullify the Antiquities Act.
- Halt efforts to rescind the designation of Bears Ears National Monument.
- Support the outdoor recreation economy’s role in the state by supporting public lands.
“Unfortunately, what we heard from Governor Herbert was more of the same,” the OIA said in a statement. “It is clear that the governor indeed has a different perspective on the protections of public lands from that of our members and the majority of Western state voters, both Republicans and Democrats – that’s bad for our American heritage, and it’s bad for our businesses. We are therefore continuing our search for a new home as soon as possible.”
In addition, Emerald Expositions, the parent company of Outdoor Retailer, will exclude Utah as it considers new locations for its annual Interbike International Bicycle Exposition. Last year’s show, held in Las Vegas, featured more than 750 bicycle companies representing 1,400 brands.
“We will continue with the RFP process in the other locations that we’ve been in contact with for Interbike,” Pat Hus, vice president of Interbike, said in a release. “Other than removing Utah from the process, nothing has changed from our standpoint.”
SnowSports Industries America, which holds its annual trade show in Denver every January, announced that it is open to partnering with organizers of the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market to create a combined show in the Mile High City.
“As leaders from across the outdoor recreation community step forward to discuss the best way to respond to public lands policies that would negatively impact our industries, we also have an opportunity to address other, significant business challenges and to position suppliers and retailers for future success,” SIA President Nick Sargent said in a release. “A part of this conversation is consolidating industry trade shows.”
During SIA’s show last month, the organization and Visit Denver announced that they extended their contract through 2030. The new contract is expected to bring at least $35 million of economic impact, more than 18,000 delegates and more than 15,000 hotel room nights annually over the next 10 years, SIA said.