August 01, 2003
Meetings & Conventions: Newsline newsline.gif (8042 bytes)   OUTDOOR RETAILERS STAND UP AGAINST NEW ECO-UNFRIENDLY LAND LAWS

Trade Show Threatens to Leave Utah

Salt Lake City: Mountains vs. moguls might mean an OIA exodus.
Salt Lake City: Mountains vs. moguls might mean an OIA exodus. The largest outdoor retailer organization in the United States is using the power of the trade show to try to influence government on both state and federal levels.

The Boulder, Colo.-based Outdoor Industry Association has threatened to pull two shows from Salt Lake City, following deals between Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt and the Bush administration that lift restrictions on development of public lands.

The agreements reached between Utah and the Interior Department in effect “unprotect six million acres that are prime recreation areas,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, OIA’s president. “There is no other industry more dependent on those lands,” he added.

The OIA is the major sponsor of summer and winter shows that, combined, attract between 16,000 and 18,000 people and represent $24 million in direct visitor spending. The winter 2005 show is the earliest that the group would relocate.

According to Mark White, vice president of sales and marketing for the Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau, the value of the OIA goes far beyond the economic impact. For Salt Lake City, the group’s presence has been a stamp of approval for outdoor enthusiasts, said White.

Already there has been exhibitor fallout. David D. Morrow, president of Showers Pass Clothing in Ukiah, Calif., said he will boycott the summer and winter shows if they remain in Utah.

“What the government understands is money, and these shows bring a lot of money to Utah,” said Morrow.

The Salt Lake CVB has been actively trying to find a solution by bringing together key players in the dispute. The CVB also has sent letters to members encouraging them to share feedback with the governor, said White.

The upshot: Gov. Leavitt must re-establish protection on the six million acres, or the OIA will find a new home for its shows, said Hugelmeyer. A decision will be announced at the show in mid-August.

• C.B.

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