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Outdoor retailer: Governor Spencer Cox sends mixed signals as he returns to Utah

Utah Governor Spencer Cox sent decidedly mixed signals Thursday regarding his feelings about the potential return of lucrative outdoor retailer shows to Salt Lake City after the event owner moved the shows to Denver. five years ago amid swirling controversy over federal land use issues.

Event owner Emerald X is set to announce where the shows will be held under a new contract that begins in 2023. Salt Lake City competes with Denver and other potential venues for the gatherings which, before the COVID-19 pandemic, regularly attracted tens of thousands.

And, earlier this week, dozens of outdoor companies, including industry heavyweights Patagonia, REI, North Face and others, vowed to boycott Outdoor Retailer shows if they return to the Utah.

On the one hand, Cox said at his monthly KUED press conference on Thursday that the roughly $50 million in economic inflow that comes with each of the biannual shows — hosted by Salt Lake City for 20 years before coming out in 2017 — n were no longer needed. in Utah’s booming economy.

“We were told (the Outdoor Retailer shows leaving Utah) would be the end of the world, that our economy would collapse, that businesses would never move here, it would be awful for our state,” Cox said.

“Turns out none of that happened. We have the best economy in the country. Our outdoor industry is thriving, it’s stronger than it’s ever been. That’s one of the reasons they’re trying to bring him back here.

Cox said show owners and exhibitors had the worst end to the exit decision because they lost their “seat at the table” to engage in meaningful discussions about land use and policies with the governor and state legislators when the end result for the state was “we didn’t miss them at all.

But some of the same people in the outdoor industry who threatened to leave in 2017 over GOP state leaders’ support for cuts to federal land protections issued an apology after Emerald announced the shows were moving. in Denver, Cox said. And, he would still like to see the shows return to Utah.

“If Patagonia and these other companies really care about this issue, they’re going to want to be here having this discussion, not going somewhere where everyone thinks exactly like them,” Cox said. “We would like them to come back. We desperately want them back.

While bringing the shows back to Utah, Cox said, would give Outdoor Retailer attendees a direct link to elected officials to discuss policy issues, he pointed out that the boycotts promised, if the shows return to Utah, will not will have no impact on his position. on matters of use and protection of federal lands.

“That kind of boycott will do absolutely nothing to change the politics that’s going on here in the state of Utah,” Cox said. “Not even an inch. We won’t think about it anymore. »

While dismissing the effectiveness of boycott threats, Cox also said he’s open to finding common ground with outdoor industry representatives and believes Salt Lake City easily beats Denver when it comes to the best locations for Outdoor Retailer events.

“Obviously coming back to Salt Lake makes sense,” Cox said. “Our airport is closer, our venues are cheaper, our locations are much closer. Come back and join the discussion. You can help make a difference. You can help temper some of the things that are happening.

“We can find common ground. We may not agree on everything, but I think there are some things we definitely agree on.

On Tuesday, the Deseret News reported on a letter signed by more than two dozen outdoor industry companies promising to boycott Outdoor Retailer shows if the biannual events return to Salt Lake City.

The letter was released on Monday by The Conservation Alliance, a group dedicated to land conservation efforts that counts more than 270 companies as members. The website posting urges Emerald X to stay out of Utah due to members’ objections to the longstanding stance taken by state leaders to oppose federal land protections.

“We have united in declaring that we will not support or attend a trade show in Utah as long as its elected officials continue to attack national monuments and the protection of public lands,” the letter reads. “Industry leaders express their support for the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition and its longstanding efforts to protect the homelands of tribes and pueblos with cultural ties to the Bears Ears landscape, as well as the overwhelming majority of the outdoor industry and America’s public.

“Despite widespread industry objections, Emerald has demonstrated continued interest in moving the Outdoor Retailer show to Utah, a state that is leading the fight against designated national monuments and public lands.”

Cox was specifically named in the letter as the leader of Utah’s effort to “strip these magnificent lands from federal protection while simultaneously trying to woo Emerald to move the Outdoor Retailer show from Denver to Salt Lake City.” .

The Utah capital lost its contract with Denver in 2017 as plans announced by then-President Donald Trump to cut several areas of federally protected land angered the environmental community, outdoor enthusiasts and companies specializing in outdoor products and services. At the center of the controversy was Trump’s stated intention to reduce the 1.35 million acre Bears Ears National Monument, created by President Barack Obama in a 2016 proclamation issued just before he left office. .

Utah state legislators and government at the time. Gary Herbert backed the Trump plan by passing a resolution during the 2017 legislative session declaring “strong opposition to the designation of Bears Ears National Monument” and urging Trump to rescind his predecessor’s executive order.

Following President Joe Biden’s decision to reverse Trump’s cuts in Utah, Cox, GOP state legislative leaders and all six members of Utah’s congressional delegation have declared their opposition to reinstatement protections. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said he intends to take legal action against Biden’s land protection changes.

Emerald X is expected to announce the new host city for Outdoor Retailer soon, and Marisa Nicholson, Senior Vice President and Show Manager of Outdoor Retailer, said her company evaluated all issues and options before entering into a new contract.

“Outdoor Retailer and Emerald remain committed to supporting the outdoor and winter sports industries by hosting gatherings that both meet business needs and foster the spirit of our community,” Nicholson said in a statement. “We have had ongoing conversations with many in our industry and consider all input and perspectives, including responses to recent surveys – we value the passion and respect everyone’s point of view.

“As we continue the process of evaluating all possible and realistic options, we remain thoughtful in our deliberations. Our goal is to stage a dynamic event that not only reflects today’s new normal, but also presents an engaging event that brings more people to this community in an authentic and affordable way. No decisions regarding future dates or location have been made at this time, and we look forward to sharing our thoughts in the coming days.

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Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion