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SALT LAKE CITY — Outdoor Retailer officials announced Thursday that after a teleconference meeting with Gov. Gary Herbert and different companies that it will not include Utah in future request for proposals for future show locations.
“We are doing the work necessary to procure an alternative location for Outdoor Retailer,” said Marisa Nicholson, show director for Outdoor Retailer in a prepared statement. “Though we may wish it different, this is far from a snap of the fingers thing to make happen. Convention centers and hotels are not sitting idle. In every instance at every potential venue, there are hurdles that have to be cleared and that simply cannot be done overnight.
“Salt Lake City has been hospitable to Outdoor Retailer and our industry for the past 20 years, but we are in lockstep with the outdoor community and are working on finding our new home.”
In a statement Thursday night, Paul Edwards, the governor's deputy chief of staff, said Outdoor Retailer's decision "perpetuates a false narrative" about Utah's value of public lands, arguing that Utah invests millions of dollars into public lands protection and access.
"The decision by the Outdoor Industry Association to prevent Salt Lake City from bidding for the Outdoor Retailer Summer and Winter Market is offensive," Edwards said in the statement. "It reflects a gross ingratitude to a community that has embraced the Outdoor Retailer show, subsidizing its success and expansion through direct investment — let alone extraordinary hospitality.
"... It shows how a political agenda, rather than reason or merit, seems to have captured the decision-making at the Outdoor Industry Association. The outdoor retail show may move away for a season, but Utah’s remarkable hospitality, our Mighty Five national parks, our nine national forests, our wilderness areas, our wildlife management areas, our wild and scenic rivers and our 43 state parks are here to stay."
Earlier Thursday, Edwards said talks with the Outdoor Industry Association ended with a "curt finish."
"We felt that we were being presented with an ultimatum," Edwards told reporters after a conference call with the Outdoor Industry Association, the sponsor of the biannual trade show.
Amy Roberts, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association, said Thursday prior to the Outdoor Retailer decision that the two sides — the state and a mixture of the trade show's officials and executives from outdoor companies — had a "wide-ranging" conversation during the teleconference. She said the conversation centered around concerns over public lands and Utah legislature's push against recent national monuments designated in Utah.
Roberts said the retailers urged Herbert to take a stand against that movement.
"We sort of reached a crossroads in terms of needing leadership from the state around these issues or it's not the place for us to be in any longer," she said, in an interview with KSL.
"We were hoping we would be able to convince the governor as leader of the Republican party in the state and just the leader of the state to use that office to talk to members of the congressional delegation and Utah legislature around what we see is a positive opportunity that they have to really seize and embrace outdoor recreation as the economy of the future in their state. And really support public lands and public land access, and it just seemed that we did not agree on those issues."
Companies like Patagonia previously announced it would boycott the twice-a-year event that has been staged in Salt Lake City since 1996. Last month, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper made a push to move the shows to Colorado.
In a statement Thursday after the decision was made by Outdoor Retailer, Conservation Colorado executive director Pete Maysmith said he hoped that the move will be a step closer to bringing the trade show to Colorado.
"Colorado has a long and proud history of protecting our public lands, and Coloradans know just how important these remarkable places are to our economy and Western way of life," he said. "If the outdoor industry is looking for show locations that reflect its values of stewardship and a passion for outdoor recreation, it should look no further than the Centennial State."
The shows draw close to 30,000 attendees and generate an annual economic impact of $45 million.
The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that companies, including REI, Patagonia and The North Face, ramped up a threat to get the outdoor trade show to leave Utah unless the governor and other elected officials backed off from policies the retailers said threaten public lands.
The AP reported that leaders of about 30 outdoor companies sent a letter to Gov. Gary Herbert that said Utah leaders are threatening the outdoor industry by pushing back against federal land control and management.
"We see all of these actions as an existential threat to the vibrancy of Utah and America's outdoor industry, as well as Utah's high quality of life," the letter said.
Outdoor Retailer wasn't the only trade show announce it planned on breaking off from Utah.
Darrell Denny, executive vice president of Emerald Expositions, also said Thursday that Utah will also not be considered for future sites of the Interbike trade show, which is the largest bicycle trade show in North America. This year's Interbike trade show is slated to be held in Las Vegas in September.
“Emerald Expositions will also not extend the request for proposal to Utah for relocating the Interbike trade show," Denny said in the statement.
Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche, Amy Joi O'Donoghue, Ryan Morgan, Ladd Egan and Dave Cawley