Group working to bring Outdoor Retailer back to Utah after 2017's messy exit

Thursday , January 18, 2018 - 5:00 AM

MITCH SHAW, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — It’s been almost a year since the Outdoor Retailer trade show announced it would be leaving Utah after two decades.

But a group that includes Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell is pushing to bring the show back to the Beehive State.

In February 2017, Outdoor Retailer issued a press release saying Utah would not be included in the bidding process for future shows. The decision came after the organization publicly clashed with state leaders over their stance on public lands.

RELATED: Outdoor Retailer show will leave Utah after 2 decades

Much of the outdoor industry — with clothing giant Patagonia leading the charge — was at odds with Gov. Gary Herbert and other state Republican leaders who lobbied President Donald Trump to rescind the Obama-era Bears Ears National Monument

Prior to Outdoor Retailer’s announcement, Herbert signed a resolution passed by the Utah Legislature that called on Trump to remove the designation. Herbert discussed the issue with outdoor industry heads in a conference call, but a compromise was never reached.

In December 2017, Trump ordered the monument be cut down by about 1.3 million acres, an 85 percent reduction. Outdoor Retailer has since moved its show to Denver and the organization’s winter exhibition is set to take place there Jan. 25-28. Outdoor Retailer held their Summer Market show in Denver in July.

RELATED:  More companies boycott Outdoor Retailer show in Utah

Caldwell said he’s heard from several outdoor companies who’ve said the move to Colorado will include a large increase in expenses for them. The mayor said Colorado’s marijuana industry has made open warehouse space hard to come by, driving up storage prices.

Travel to Denver area mountain resorts — which are hours from the Colorado Convention Center where shows are being held — is another factor driving up costs for retailers. 

“We’re hearing from a lot of them, the cost associated with going to Denver is going to increase their show (budgets) by about 40 percent,” Caldwell said. “When everybody started to cost-model what it was going to require to get to Denver, to do what they had traditionally done here in shows past, it’s starting to feel cost prohibitive.”

So Caldwell, the Economic Development Corporation of Utah and the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development see that as an opportunity to bring the show back to Utah. The trio met Wednesday and will be hatching a plan to try and persuade show organizers.

“We think it might be an experiment — that they go to Denver and enough of the retailers say this is not functional,” Caldwell said. “If that’s the case, they look back at Utah and we might have a chance to make another bid for it. It got political, but we still think (Utah) makes the most sense from a business standpoint.” 

Tom Adams, director of GOED’s Outdoor Recreation Office, said Outdoor Retailer’s contract with the Denver convention center is for five years.

RELATED: European trade mission explores Ogden as potential outdoor business 'base camp'

Caldwell said even though the show was held in Salt Lake City, it had a big impact in Ogden. The city has made outdoor recreation a priority, believing it will play a key role in Ogden’s economy. The mayor said the show gave local companies an opportunity to connect with larger players in the industry.

GOED says outdoor recreation is Utah’s most significant tourism driver. The industry employs more than 110,000 people in Utah and annually generates $737 million in state and local tax revenues, with $3.9 billion in wages, according to GOED.

You can reach reporter Mitch Shaw at mishaw@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23 or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/MitchShaw.StandardExaminer.

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