Colorado has gained the Outdoor Retailer trade show that Salt Lake City let get away.
That’s a big win for Colorado, a big nod to outdoor recreation’s ever-increasing economic clout and a big affirmation of the love for public lands.
As Utah officials lobbied to reduce the size of Bears Ears National Monument, which former President Barack Obama designated late last year, the outdoor industry warned that Salt Lake’s relationship with the trade show was in danger as a result. Nobody blinked, and the result was a big loss for Utah.
Several cities jumped into the competition to be the next host of the twice-yearly expo, which is projected to bring as much as $110 million to the host each year. The new contract is for five years.
In the end, the director of the shows said, “the ethos of Colorado just aligned really well with our industry and its vision and values.”
There’s no doubt that Denver professionals put considerable energy, effort and funding into their warp-speed proposal, and they deserve credit for winning the contract. The show wasn’t likely to move out of the West. Still, the fact that Coloradans appreciate their public land resources and work hard to keep them made a tremendous difference.
Colorado’s governor and congressional delegation have expressed firm support for the state’s national forests, parks and monuments and their state counterparts recognize that public lands drive a lot of spending by outdoor recreationists, many of whom come to the state specifically for its wildland opportunities.
Their numbers, plus the high percentage of locals who hike, bike, ski, fish, hunt, climb, ride horses or drive off-road, boat, photograph, sightsee and otherwise enjoy the state’s open spaces, add up to a huge economic force as they spend money on travel, lodging, food, gear and peak experiences.
Although Colorado companies do not manufacture as much outdoor equipment as some other states, that industry is growing as well.
Outdoor recreation is sustainable, while resource extraction is finite. Utah has gambled that its gains will outweigh the loss of the Outdoor Retailer contract, but Colorado has its priorities straight.