(Image courtesy of the Outdoor Industry Association)
A scheduled phone meeting with leaders of the outdoor industry and Utah Governor Gary Herbert today failed to close the growing divide between the two parties. The governor and members of the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) have been at odds over Herbert’s request to rescind the national monument status of the Bears Ears, and other protected sites in his state, prompting some companies to boycott the upcoming Outdoor Retailer convention scheduled for Salt Lake City in July.
On Thursday, representatives from the OIA, along with leaders from Patagonia, The North Face, REI, and Outdoor Retailer joined the Governor on a conference call in an attempt to clear the air and potentially hash out their differences. It seems that conversation proved to be fruitless however, as a press release from the OIA this afternoon indicated. That press release said, in part:
“Unfortunately, what we heard from Governor Herbert was more of the same. 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 that same release, OIA executive director Amy Roberts is quoted as saying “Over the last 20 years, Outdoor Retailer has been in Salt Lake City, generating more than $45 million in annual economic impact. 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 went on to add “Outdoor Industry Association will continue to support the efforts of Outdoor Retailer to seek a new home for the trade show.”
The gear convention has been held in Salt Lake City twice annually for two decades and has contracts in place with the convention center to keep it there through 2018. It seems increasingly likely that the show will move on after that, taking the money that it generates for the Utah economy with it. Where the show will end up remains to be seen, although Denver seems to be a leading candidate at this early stage of the game.
Meanwhile, Nick Sargent, the president of the Snowsports Industries of America, says that his organization is interested in potentially partnering with Outdoor Retailer for a combined show held in Denver. In a press release of his own, Sargent said “A part of this conversation is consolidating industry trade shows. At this critical time, as SIA works to build a lasting legacy through the annual Snow Show in Denver, we welcome partnerships with anyone who is willing to help us strengthen the industry as a whole.”
For those wondering why this is such an important story for Gear Institute to cover so extensively, it boils down to protecting the public lands that we all enjoy so much. Those same wild spaces are important to the brands that make up the outdoor industry and their customers too. Hopefully, their efforts will make a difference, both in Utah and elsewhere.