Salt Lake City—Following a call between Gov. Gary Herbert and the Outdoor Industry Association, which is heavily involved in the biannual Outdoor Retailer trade expo that has called Utah home since 1996, the OIA expressed frustration with Utah’s political direction in regards to public lands and said future OR expos would find a new host city for the show after the contract expires in summer 2018.
The Outdoor Industry Association represents more than 1,200 outdoor businesses nationally, including more than 50 in Utah. The association was joined on its call with Gov. Herbert by the leadership of Patagonia, The North Face, REI and Outdoor Retailer.
In a statement announcing its decision to remove the Outdoor Retailer trade show from Utah, the association said it plans to search for a new home as soon as possible.
“Over the last 20 years, Outdoor Retailer has been in Salt Lake City, generating more than $45 million in annual economic impact,” said Amy Roberts from Outdoor Industry Association. “Further, the outdoor recreation economy in Utah adds more than $12 billion in direct spending, supports 122,000 jobs in the state, paying $3.6 billion in salaries and wages, and contributes more than $856 million in state and local tax revenue every year. We believe these numbers and our values will be of great interest to other states in West.”
Roberts continued, “It’s disappointing Governor Herbert and the Utah congressional delegation are in a different place than Republican and Democratic leaders in Washington, D.C. and across the country. Both President Trump and Interior secretary nominee Ryan Zinke have stated their support for keeping public lands public and accessible by all Americans.
“Outdoor Industry Association will continue to support the efforts of Outdoor Retailer to seek a new home for the trade show.”
Roberts concluded stating, “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.
One point of contention for the association is the effort among state lawmakers and Utah’s congressional delegation to transfer federal public lands to the state. The association’s statement said that transfer has been widely rejected by voters. “Public lands have defined America and serve as the backbone of the outdoor recreation economy. For the hundreds of outdoor merchandisers, retailers, guides, outfitters and other recreation service providers, the transfer or sale of America’s public lands is the loss of the very infrastructure that supports our industry.”
The OIA pointed to congressional votes to support transferring federal lands to states, pursuit of a lawsuit to try and force the transfer of federal lands to Utah, and most recently a resolution passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Herbert asking President Trump to overturn the Bears Ears National Monument by executive order.
Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber, issued a statement expressing regret about OIA’s decision to remove the trade show from Utah.
“We regret the decision by the Outdoor Retailer show to leave our state for political reasons,” said Beattie. “We hope that they will reconsider and give state leaders an opportunity to work more closely with them in our shared goal of protecting our lands. We have been great partners for more than 20 years. Few can question the mutually beneficial relationship we have had.
“To be clear, our outdoor recreation and tourism sectors are essential components of Utah’s culture, economy and quality of life. Our spectacular natural environment is a legacy passed to us from preceding generations. We all have an obligation to preserve this legacy, even if we do not always agree about the specific tactics or means.
“Utah is blessed to have incredible sporting facilities, vistas and views with our endless mountain ranges, rivers, lakes, wildlife, and the largest ski resort in North America. The state of Utah is a remarkable product-testing location, with recreational opportunities and natural beauty that attracts great companies and employees from every industry.
“As Utah’s business leader, we believe all voices on these issues should be heard. We regret that this may not have always been the case in the past. Moving forward, we should work harder to make sure all perspectives are fairly included.
“We would also like to thank Governor Herbert for his leadership. He recognizes the value of our natural resources, natural beauty, and natural environment.
“With or without the Outdoor Retailer Tradeshow, we will continue to encourage all stakeholders to collaborate to find consensus-based solutions that bolster Utah’s outdoor recreation industry, enhance our quality of life, respect and strengthen rural communities, and to find sensible lasting solutions to balance development, recreation and conservation of public lands.”