Outdoor Retailer Trade Show Is Leaving Utah, Could Colorado Be Its New Home?

Listen Now
<p>Pagosa Springs-based Voormi Clothing produces its product in smaller mountain towns and, despite some challenges, encourages other entrepreneurs to do the same. </p>

To the winner will go the spoils: In Utah, Outdoor Retailer has drawn 45,000 attendees annually, supported 122,000 jobs, and contributed more than $856 million in state and tax revenue a year, according to organizers.

Officials from Oregon, Montana, Tennessee, New Mexico, Washington and Colorado are reported to be trying to lure the event to their states. Presumably the winner will have to have more favorable policies toward federal public lands than Utah. In moving the Outdoor Retailer show, organizers said in a statement, "It is clear that [Utah's] 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."

Outdoor Industry Association Executive Director Amy Roberts joined Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner to discuss what it hopes to gain in moving the Outdoor Retailer show, and where it may go next.

Interview Highlights With Amy Roberts

On what motivated the trade show organizers to leave:

"It's really an issue that's been building over a period of years... I would say really over the last 10, we've had concerns with Utah political leadership and the decisions made around public lands in the state. And those really came to a head in the past couple of years when we began to see efforts by the Utah legislature, the governor, as well as the congressional delegation to lead the nation in efforts that we feel would harm public lands, and that really means transferring federal lands to the states, where it's likely they would be sold off to private interests."

On why retailers believe supporting land transfers to the state is anti-environment or anti-outdoors:

"I think the challenge is that our federal lands system was set up to be something that all Americans own, and that we have the opportunity as Americans to travel to different states and to visit these lands. And what we were seeing [in Utah] is really a pretty hard line position around transferring federal lands to the states, which we don't think is a viable option."

On concern about Utahns who worked for or relied on the trade show business:

"I think there's a -- definitely a melancholy or a bittersweet feeling in our industry, especially because the hotels and restaurants in Salt Lake City have been so good to us. We have friends that we've developed from attending the show there over so many years. And what we've said is, our message is: We're going to continue to work on public land policy in the state of Utah... But I really think what we're going to see now is that the business community in Salt Lake will organize around this issue, and perhaps send a message that it's time for a leadership change in Utah."