Editorial: Utah’s Politicians and the Outdoor Industry’s Leaders Need to Resume Negotiations on Public Lands, Outdoor Retailer, and Interbike

Outdoor Retailer to Leave – Public Lands, Bicycling, and Utah’s Economy Suffer As Utah Politicians and National Outdoor Leaders Drop the Ball 

Utah Governor Gary Herbert addresses the Outdoor Industry in 2013 upon creating the Outdoor Industry Recreation Vision for Utah. All that seems to be out the window with the 2017 decision by Outdoor Retailer to leave Utah. Photo by Dave Iltis
Utah Governor Gary Herbert addresses the Outdoor Industry in 2013 upon creating the Outdoor Industry Recreation Vision for Utah. All that seems to be out the window with the 2017 decision by Outdoor Retailer to leave Utah. Photo by Dave Iltis

Editorial, February 19, 2017: The Outdoor Retailer Trade Show and Interbike (both owned by Emerald Expositions) announced on February 16, 2017 that due to lack of support for public lands by the Governor and leaders of the State of Utah that the Outdoor Retailer Show will be leaving Utah; and Interbike, the bicycle industry’s yearly trade show, will no longer consider Utah as an option. Outdoor Industry leaders were particularly angry about the push to rescind the brand new Bear’s Ears National Monument and to sell off public lands. Those issues were a line in the sand that could not be crossed.

 

Cycling Utah calls for Utah’s politicians and the outdoor industry’s leaders to get back to the table as soon as possible, in person, in Utah, and as soon as possible to negotiate a future that is good for Utah’s public lands, cycling, and the economy and people of Utah. Governor Herbert, Representatives and Senators Stewart, Chaffetz, Love, Bishop, Hatch and Lee, the Utah Legislature, and Mayors Biskupski and McAdams and leaders from the Outdoor Industry Association, Outdoor Retailer, Peter Metcalf, Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia, REI, and Emerald Expositions – need to sit down, look to the future, and resume negotiations.

 

The Outdoor Industry Association had asked for four items from the Governor: 1. To “revoke any support for the sale or transfer of America’s public lands to the states.” 2. To “cease on any effort to nullify the Antiquities Act, an authority that grants Congress the ability to designate public lands.” 3. To “(halt) any support to rescind the designation of the Bears Ears area as a National Monument.” 4. “That the governor embrace and actively support the outdoor recreation economy’s role in the state by supporting the public lands that provide the backbone of the industry’s sales.”

The Governor did not meet those requests, and Outdoor Retailer made the decision to leave Utah and took Utah off the table as a possible host for the Interbike tradeshow.

What Can You Do?

•Call or Email Governor Gary Herbert and other Utah Politicians. The comment line for Gov. Herbert is 801-538-1000 or https://www.utah.gov/governor/contact/

•Call or email the Outdoor Industry Association 303.444.3353 or [email protected]

•Ask them to resume negotiations.

This debacle is going to cost the state of Utah and Salt Lake City at least $66.5 million in direct spending from the twice yearly trade show plus the opportunity cost of not hosting Interbike ($45 million from Outdoor Retailer and $21.5 million from Interbike). And today, the Salt Lake Tribune reports that Outdoor Retailer was considering adding 2 more shows a year. They also report that the total lost impact to Utah will be $500 million! A strong voice for public lands in Utah disappears. The future of cycling in Utah suffers. The people suffer. No one wins.

The Interbike tradeshow and bicycling are collateral damage, caught up in the fallout over the Outdoor Retailer Show leaving Utah. Interbike is about as large as Outdoor Retailer, and had Emerald Expositions had narrowed their options for the 2018 show to include Salt Lake City (as well as Denver, Las Vegas, and Anaheim). No more. Interbike has been held in Las Vegas for about 20 years. Las Vegas has great accommodations as far as hotel rooms, but has much to be desired for actual bicycling. Because of Utah leaders’ stance on public lands, Interbike will no longer consider Utah and will now likely move to wherever Outdoor Retailer moves too since they can negotiatie a package deal for both events. The best money is on Denver, Colorado as the new location for Outdoor Retailer and Interbike.

Salt Lake City is the perfect location for Interbike. It is the crossroads of the West, with world class mountain biking and road biking nearby. Deer Valley or Park City would be a perfect location for the Outdoor Demo. Salt Lake City has a strong bike culture, and a growing bicycle industry with many bike companies in Salt Lake City, Park City, and nearby Ogden. It has a very strong bicycle retail sector. And, as far as accommodations, the convention center, hotels, and downtown restaurants are well equipped to handle a large show like Interbike.

Utah has been poised to become the bike industry’s leading state. Had Interbike relocated to Utah, it’s probable that a number of new bike companies would have moved their headquarters here. This may still happen with the great work that Ogden, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and Park City are doing, But the loss of the Outdoor Retailer show, the lost opportunity of Interbike and the associated negative publicity puts bike industry growth in Utah at risk. It means fewer new voices for cycling, fewer new cyclists, and fewer cycling jobs. The departure of the shows is more than just a departure of dollars – it’s a departure of cycling culture – and an incredibly bad choice for our future.

Many of the companies that attend Outdoor Retailer have looked to Utah as an ideal place to locate their business and retail operations: Black Diamond, Petzl, REI, Patagonia, and Gregory Packs are just a few of the companies who have decided to make Utah their home. Utah’s politicians want to see more ‘local’ control over the land, and more options for extractive mineral industries. Tourism and outdoor recreation bring in big dollars for Utah – $12 billion in consumer spending, 122,400 jobs, $856 million in state tax revenue, and $3.6 billion in wages and salaries according to the Outdoor Industry Association. Cycling Utah estimates bicycling in Utah to contribute in the neighborhood of $500 million in consumer and industry spending along with 2000 to 3000 jobs. Then there are the harder to measure benefits like millions in health savings, better air, and a happier populace. Will Utah lose all of this? No, but the continued growth will be slowed or even reversed. The State of Utah needs to value the economic engine that is the outdoor industry.

The unwillingness of Utah’s politicians to work through this with the outdoor industry is appalling.

The Outdoor Industry Association, Outdoor Retailer, Peter Metcalf, Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia, REI, and Emerald Expositions are responsible for this mess too. They drew a line in the sand with positions and editorials (from Metcalf and Chouinard) on the lack of support by Utah politicians on the Bear’s Ears and sale of public lands. After many years of negotiation and progress, they are leaving, and the game is over.

Utah’s politicians wouldn’t budge. Outdoor Retailer and Interbike will likely move to Colorado, a state with great public lands that has a supportive governor and a supportive outlook. The threat to leave was an awesome political statement, but it’s a once and done action. There’s no going back.

Does Colorado really need the help to preserve public lands? Probably. Voices for preservation are needed everywhere. But Utah arguably needs the voice and leverage of the outdoor industry more than any other state. Is the outdoor industry going to speak out in Utah for the next 20 years? Or are they going to leave with just an editorial or two this year, and silence going in to the future? What are your companies going to do to continue the fight for public lands in Utah? And for bicycling in Utah?

Mayors Biskupski and McAdams of Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County were missing in action too. The Outdoor Retailer show is incredibly important to our local economy. Interbike would have been too. Yet, there was no outcry by the Mayors to keep the show here. No public plea to the Governor or the Legislature. No outcry that the loss of Outdoor Retailer will impact Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County much more than the rest of the state. Our restaurants, hotels, and convention center will suffer. The people who work for those businesses will suffer too. And, we’ll lose future jobs from businesses that won’t locate here because they won’t come to Salt Lake City for the tradeshow and they won’t be exposed to the great public lands, cycling, and outdoor opportunities that Utah has to offer.

Thanks to the short sighted thinking of both the Outdoor Retailer folks, the Governor and other lead politicians in the state of Utah, public lands and the people and businesses who make their living from them will suffer. Utah bicycling will lose out on great things in the future. The economy of Utah will suffer. The people of Utah will suffer. And, the outdoor industry as a whole will be set back. Most importantly, the land and environment will suffer in the long run.

Now please get back to the table and work things out.

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