The Outdoor Retailer trade shows are two of the biggest gear trade shows in the world. Held bi-annually in Salt Lake City, UT the winter show is usually held in January, and the summer show is just getting underway this August weekend. Gear companies across the globe as well as athletes, gear shops and buyers flock to Salt Lake City for these two gatherings each year bringing a wealth of activity to the Salt Lake City region, but unless the Governor of Utah shifts course on environmental issues it sounds like the expo may be looking for a new home.
Recently, the organizers for the Outdoor Retailer trade shows have made news headlines not because of the trade show itself, but because the organizers have officially offered the state, and more specifically the governor an ultimatum-change your stance on supporting environmental issues or Outdoor Retailer won’t be happening in Salt Lake City anymore. The announcement has sent shock waves throughout the outdoor community and of course in Salt Lake City as both trade shows are a major source of economic activity for the area, and have been since the shows first started taking place in Salt Lake City back in 1996. It’s estimated that over 25,000 people come to Salt Lake City for these shows and that more than $40 million dollars are feed into the local economy as a result.
According to the board of the Outdoor Industry Association, who met this past week to discuss issues that includes their problems with the environmental policies supported by the state of Utah, they told Governor Gary Herbert that if he and the state did not change their course to better support issues that effect the environment the trade shows might be moved. Apparently the board met privately with the governor as association president and CEO Frank Hugelmeyer shared their viewpoint. The Outdoor Industry Association has more than 4,000 members who represent some of the largest outdoor companies in the industry. Since the trade shows seem to grow each year and the Outdoor Industry Association is well aware of the economic vibrancy it brings to the area it seems they are playing hardball by wanting to host their trade shows in a place that will support the companies that bring such strong economic activity to the area rather than seek to undermine it. They are also looking for things like a bigger convention space for the shows, and more hotel hotel rooms in the area, but are not willing to compromise their needs for the needs of the environment.
While the governor told the press he would work to make sure that the shows stayed in Utah he also shared that even though he is going to work to keep the shows in Salt Lake City the state could end up loosing the events. Many political issues remain unresolved that speak to the disdain the Outdoor Industry Association has for stances the governor and Utah as a state have taken that corrode the environments where many of the companies who come to Outdoor Retailer rely on for people to enjoy their products. Two such paramount issues are a bill signed by the governor this past March that demands for the federal government to relinquish its control of public lands in the state by 2014. A second issue of contention is Utah’s efforts to open thousands of trails on public lands to motorized vehicles. The Outdoor Industry Association has asked the governor to “pursue public land policies that support the outdoor industry” rather than harm it, and they added that they’d like to see a sign from the governor sometime in the next month.
For the time being the governor has publicly stated that he feels the Outdoor Retailer trade shows will be better off staying in Utah than in any other city that the Outdoor Industry Association has stated they would be willing to move too. These new sites include Denver, CO, Las Vegas, NV, Anaheim, CA, and Orlando, FL. The governor seems to be keeping his comments centered on business telling the public and the Outdoor Industry Association that there is no better place to host the events than Utah, and that overall the profitability of the trade shows would be lessened if the shows were moved to another area.
On the one hand the governor has a point as having attending the past few winter Outdoor Retailer trade shows the access to Little Cottonwood and Big Cottonwood Canyons is tough to beat. You can easily wake up well before dawn, be skinning, skiing and back to the trade show just as the convention center is getting going for the day. I trust the same could be said in the summer as the hiking, mountain biking and climbing opportunities are just as close making the locale of Salt Lake City that much more appealing to hold such gatherings. When you’re at the winter trade show it’s pretty uncommon to run into some attendee, vendor or really anyone involved in the show that’s not planning to check into some nearby recreational opportunity simply because there are so many options so close to the convention center.
However, the Outdoor Industry Association is making a strong statement in the manner they have challenged the state of Utah. While dollars and cents are always at the core of such issues this one looks to be more of an ethical and moral high-road issue as the Outdoor Industry Association is spot on. Rather than look at this from a purely financial standpoint at the governor seems to be framing it, the real emerging question is how can the Outdoor Industry Association hold their trade shows in a state that does not back measures to support the baseline health of the thing that all of these companies are most reliant on, never mind that some measures, such as the reclaiming of federally protected public lands, may actually cripple it and provide a model for others to follow?