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Business, Outdoor Fun Converge at Retailers Convention

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Outdoor recreation is a booming business locally and nationally that depends on public lands. The convention comes to Utah each August and January.

The outdoor recreation industry is meeting again in Salt Lake City this week. The Outdoor Retailers’ (OR) Summer Market is partly a gathering of retail trend spotters, partly a brainstorming for conservation activists. But it’s also a business convention, with more than twenty-eight thousand people pumping over twenty-million-dollars into the local economy over a few days. 

Brad Peterson, director of the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation, says the impacts have indirect benefits, too.

“In the last year alone, we’ve had over $2.5 billion in new revenue of outdoor products businesses move to the state," says Peterson, "and a lot of that is oftentimes because they’ve come here through the OR show first.”

A few years ago, leaders of the outdoor industry began complaining about pro-development politics in Utah, and that prompted the creation of Peterson’s post. Now Colorado has similar office and a half-dozen other states are thinking about adding one of their own. The purpose is to keep lines of communication open in an industry worth more than $646 billion nationally.

Owner of Western Spirit Cycling in Moab and an outfitter with permits to use public lands, Ashley Korenblat says outdoor recreation and smart land management have to go hand in hand.

“Outdoor activities are really part of the business fabric of the state of Utah,” she says.

The Outdoor Retailers convention is underway at the Salt Palace Convention Center downtown through Saturday.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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