Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and the state’s U.S. Senators have penned a letter urging Outdoor Retailer to call Colorado its new home.
The letter, addressed to Senior Vice Presidents of Emerald Expositions (Lori Jenks and Darrell Denny), makes a case for the Centennial State to become the new host of the Outdoor Retailer show, a twice-a-year outdoor recreation gear expo. In it, Hickenlooper, along with Senators Michael F. Bennet and Cory Gardner, exhorted organizers to consider the “tremendous business opportunity” a move to Colorado would represent. Further, the trio sought to “emphasize our ongoing commitment to protect public lands that support a robust outdoor recreation economy in [Colorado].”
In their letter, Hickenlooper et al. note how outdoor recreation contributes to the state’s economy and culture:
Access to public lands and outdoor recreation is the foundation of Colorado communities large and small. Over 80 percent of Coloradans participate in trail-related activities on a regular basis and 9 in 10 participate in outdoor recreation annually. Across the state, we can thank outdoor recreation for $19.9 billion in Colorado’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which supports 313,000 jobs and contributes $4.9 billion in local, state, and federal tax revenues. Be it our small towns, large cities, or remote mountain communities, we protect our public lands because they form the infrastructure for our work and play. We recognize that the loss of these landscapes—or our access to them—would be a tragedy for our economy and our quality of life.
The trio also note that, with the recent passage of the Outdoor REC Act, co-sponsored by Senator Gardner, outdoor recreation must now be tabulated in the U.S. GDP, reflecting the industry’s ascendance in recent years.
For the past 20-odd years, the show has been held in Salt Lake City. However, Emerald Expositions, along with the Outdoor Industry Association and several prominent outdoor companies (Patagonia, The North Face, and REI) have publically broken with the state, specifically with Utah Governor Gary Herbert, announcing they will move the show out of Utah going ahead.
The schism came after the OIA and other retailers, in a conference call with Herbert, came to blows over his and other Utah Republican leader’s “hostile” attitude toward public lands. Indeed, Herbert and other Utah representatives both in-state and in Washington have vehemently sought to transfer public lands to state hands and have come out against the recent designation of Bears Ears National Monument.
The OIA called the questioning of Bears Ears’ legitimacy a direct assault on their livelihood, calling public lands “the very infrastructure that supports our industry.”
After the announcement, Herbert spokesman Paul Edwards called the decision “offensive” and said that it “reflects a gross ingratitude.” Other Utah legislators and political figures bemoaned Herbert’s intransigence, saying that the decision is a big political and economic loss for Utah. Indeed, as you can see, it’s a loss others are hoping to capitalize on.
In addition to Hickenlooper, Montana Governor Steve Bullock has expressed interest in having his state host the event.