Black Diamond founder Peter Metcalf helped make Utah a hub for outdoor-recreation businesses and lured the industry’s big trade show to Salt Lake City. This year, the trade show’s relocated to Colorado where public-lands politics are more in line with the industry’s.
Metcalf is there, too, as more than a thousand exhibitors set up booths in an expanded trade show that was held in Utah for two decades.
Peter Metcalf only had to make the trip to downtown Salt Lake City to attend the Outdoor Retailer trade show for all of those years. But the show pulled up stakes last year after Utah’s Republican politicians lobbied to have the Bears Ears National Monument scrapped.
“Departing was a way to say: ‘We cannot conduct a trade show in a state that is Ground Zero for the worst, cancerous policies in America,” he said, restating the rallying cry that prompted the show's move.
Metcalf says “horrific” public-land policies threaten what’s made Utah the right place for outdoor recreation and the $12-billion-dollar industry its inspired here.
“They are under full attack in the state of Utah — that’s how people see it," he said of the outdoor industry and the conservation community tied to it. "And I think it really will begin to affect tourism. It will affect the ability to get any more outdoor companies to come to Utah.”
Ultimately, the Fortune 500 companies that came to Utah for its quality of life and wild landscapes will become disillusioned because of how the policies play out, Metcalf said.
Even though the Outdoor Retailers show has moved, the public lands policy fight continues — in the courts, in Congress and even in a Twitter war between Utah congressman Rob Bishop and the outdoor company Patagonia.
Metcalf said attending the trade show in Denver feels "surreal." One reason is the warm welcome the industry’s received by lawmakers and other political leaders in Colorado.