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Views Differ On Impacts Of Outdoor Retailer's Departure From Utah

Judy Fahys
The cash register at Toasters deli is adorned with stickers from the companies and causes represented at the Outdoor Retailers trade show that takes place across the street. The show's moving over a dispute about Utah lands policies.

Almost all the tables were taken Friday at the Toasters Deli facing the Salt Palace Convention Center. But this is almost empty compared to days when the Outdoor Retailer trade show is underway across the street.

“We are sad and devastated,” says Enes Huskic, who owns Toasters. That show was our lifeline for years.”
He’s like many people who say they’re disappointed that the Outdoor Retailer trade show won’t be returning to Salt Lake City after its current contract runs out. But there’s a range of views about how much Utah will be hurt in the long run, and Huskic is one of those who fears the loss could be serious.

His bottom line’s going to be hurt by the fallout from the fight over public land policies between Utah’s elected leaders and the outdoor industry. Because of it, the show’s leaving Utah. Some say the convention’s 40,000 attendees and $45 million economic boost are replaceable.

“But that’s not the same,” says Huskic. “The people who attend the outdoor retailers show are the people who are actually improving and promoting our beautiful state – our ski resorts, our lakes, our fishing spots.”

In Utah’s State Capitol, lawmakers are also disappointed, too. But some are not terribly concerned about significant impacts.

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser pointed out that lawmakers have supported the trade show, chipping in about $2 million a year to help with costs. But he also defended a resolution urging President Donald Trump to rescind the new Bears Ears National Monument – the most recent move behind the outdoor industry’s exodus.

“I don’t think it’s going to be hardly a blip on our screen financially for the state,” says Niederhauser, who says he’s not worried that the state’s brand identity was harmed in the flap.

House Majority Leader Brad Wilson of Layton agreed that tourism isn’t dependent on the trade show.

“I don’t see those two necessarily tethered,” he says, “in the sense that people like recreating here and will keep recreating here.”

The Outdoor Industry Association’s analysis five years ago estimated that the outdoor recreation economy in Utah is $12 billion dollars a year and supports 122,000 direct jobs.

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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