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Outdoor Retailer Convention Is Leaving SLC

Judy Fahys
Visit Salt Lake CEO Scott Beck (left) and Gov. Gary Herbert's Deputy Chief of Staff, Paul Edwards, talked to reporters before learning that outdoor companies will move their trade show from Utah over political differences.

The announcement came after a tense conference call Thursday between Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and outdoor company leaders.

“It’s too bad,” said Amy Roberts, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association. “We still think that Utah has an opportunity to choose a different path.”

Roberts said many of the twelve hundred members of OIA were dismayed by positions Utah leaders have taken on public lands, like fighting the Bears Ears National Monument and advocating that states take control of federal lands.

“But I think at this time we can’t have a trade show in a location that our industry doesn’t support,” she added, “and our member companies have really been concerned -- and I would say offended -- by some of the actions in the last few months and just felt like it’s just time to take our business elsewhere.”

The twice-yearly trade show generates about $45 million and draws tens of thousands of people. The industry’s ripple-effect on Utah’s economy has grown to more than 12 billion dollars over two decades.

State officials like Governor Gary Herbert have been touting Utah lately as a public lands state with recreational opportunities that can’t be found anywhere else, and hinted that the state’s portfolio was so strong the show would stay.

But Herbert’s deputy chief of staff, Paul Edwards, attacked the industry’s move as “offensive” and condemned it for perpetuating a false narrative that Utah is hostile to public lands.

“It perpetuates the false narrative that Utah -- a state that derives much of its inspiration and identity from its iconic public lands -- a state that invests tens of millions of dollars into the protection of and access to its public lands -- is somehow hostile to those public lands,” said Edwards in a statement.

Visit Salt Lake CEO Scott Beck said he’s committed to moving forward and finding new conventions. But he added that the decision will be felt beyond the host city.

“The real issue is this is a huge economic impact to Utah.”

Denver and other cities are already welcoming the opportunity to become the new home for the trade show.

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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