Today in New West news: Colorado steps up courting of Outdoor Retailer, Montana Democrats pick Rob Quist for House race, and Idaho introduces data center tax incentive.
Since the organizers of Outdoor Retailer announced they would no longer host the show in Utah, after a falling out with Utah Governor Gary Herbert over his stance on public lands and Bears Ears National Monument, neighboring states have started aggressively courting for a shot at hosting the trade show. Indeed, we previously reported Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and both the state’s U.S. Senators had penned a letter urging organizers to call the Centennial State home.
Now, according to the Denver Post, Luis Benitez, head exec of the first Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, is wooing Outdoor Retailer organizers. Indeed, Benitez says a deal would represent “Colorado becoming the backbone of an industry and a national economy … the capacity of this moment can’t be overstated.” From the Post:
Benitez spent the past month encouraging Colorado’s Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and Republican Sen. Cory Gardner to join Gov. John Hickenlooper in urging Outdoor Retailer to move to Colorado. Now he’s on a 30-day mission to not just convince the convention bookers at Visit Denver to look beyond the immediate — and significant — return on investment for trade shows that host more than 40,000 annual visitors who spend more than $45 million, but lure everyone who plays outside in Colorado that it’s time to rally under the outdoor recreation banner.
“What we are talking about goes beyond membership to any one group. What we are talking about is membership to our industry at large. It’s the soccer mom and the dad in the park, it’s the backcountry skier, the climber, biker, boater, fisherperson, hunter, motorcycle rider and snowmobiler,” Benitez said. “It’s the big tent. The biggest tent.”
While Benitez is spotlighting the inspirational unification of an industry that is emerging as a national economic pillar, Richard Scharf at Visit Denver is laboring over the nuanced and complex logistics of landing the trade shows in 2019. His proposal is due to Outdoor Retailer owner Emerald Expositions — the nation’s largest trade show organizer — by the end of March. He just submitted Denver’s 10-year bid to host Emerald’s Interbike trade show, the largest bike gathering in the country.
Scharf’s challenges are plentiful. June and July, when Outdoor Retailer would want to rally at the Colorado Convention Center for its summer market, are the center’s busiest months.
Scharf’s team books $700 million in convention business a year, sometimes scheduling gatherings as far as 10 years out. If he wants to wedge 25,000-plus conventioneers into four or five days in June or July 2019, he may need to reschedule an already booked conference, which Visit Denver has done before but not often. Scharf’s proposal will likely be competing against cities such as Las Vegas, Seattle, Chicago, Portland, Ore., Orlando, Fla., Reno, Nev., and Anaheim, Calif. Politicians from Oregon, Montana and New Mexico have expressed support for hosting Outdoor Retailer.
Looking at Montana, we previously reported Governor Steve Bullock had set a date for the state’s special election for its sole U.S. House seat after Ryan Zinke was confirmed as Interior Secretary. We included a list of candidates for each party (Democrat, Republican, and Libertarian), which run the gamut from established representatives to party insiders to veritable outsiders.
This weekend, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Montana Democrats have selected their candidate for the ballot: musician and Montana Arts Council member Rob Quist:
While the campaign trail is taking him in a new direction, Quist is accustomed to hitting the road. His long career as a singer and guitarist for the Mission Mountain Wood Band has taken him to every part of the state, he said.
“Montana is a community with very long streets — and I know all of them,” said Quist, who wore a cowboy hat, a leather blazer and an oversized belt buckle during the convention. Democratic leaders hope his cowboy persona will connect with voters, as he has with audiences who attend his shows.
He has traveled to more than 40 counties in recent weeks, he said, to begin meeting with voters and Democratic central committee members who gave their strong endorsement Sunday.
“Who better than a musician for a campaign like this?” he told reporters after being nominated. “It’s something I’ve been doing all my life.”
He’ll have to win in a state that went overwhelmingly for Donald Trump and swept in Republicans in every statewide office in November except for the governor’s office.
Republicans will choose from six candidates during their nomination convention, including Greg Gianforte, who was the party’s nominee for governor last fall.
A spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee depicted Quist as a liberal of the Bernie Sanders mold.
“Think the far-left Quist has a shot in this red state after Montanans have rejected House Democrats in eleven straight elections? Look us in the eye and tell us with a straight face,” said the spokesman, Jack Pandol, in a statement emailed to reporters after the Democratic gathering.
Quist beat out previously favored candidates, including state reps Kelly McCarthy (D-Billings) and Amanda Curtis (D-Butte). Curtis previously ran for the U.S. Senate, losing to Steve Daines. When Quist was announced as the Democratic candidate, Curtis exhorted attendees to back Quist wholeheartedly, according to the Chronicle:
“We all know every candidate needs money. They need volunteers,” said Curtis, who was attempting to be only the second woman elected to Congress from the Treasure State.
“From this moment forward,” Curtis said, “every Democrat will have to hit the ground to let friends and neighbors know that we have a man who represents Big Sky country running for Congress.”
McCarthy also pledged to back Quist.
Finally, over in Idaho, according to the Idaho Business Review, a new bill introduced to the House Revenue and Taxation Committee seeks to create a new tax incentive to get data centers to set up shop in the Gemstone State. Bill would give companies a sales and use tax rebate if they invest at least $25 million in capital within a five-year period and create 20 jobs in two years or less. Additional rebates would be available for equipment purchases worth at least $5 million. From the Review:
About 20 states have tax incentives designed to attract data centers and five states don’t have sales tax. The exemption would help Idaho attract data centers and additional investment in technology, said Bobbi-Jo Meuleman, chief operating officer at the Idaho Department of Commerce.
“Idaho is in a prime location to attract large data centers because we have low energy costs, are at low risk for a natural disaster, have a high desert climate that provides free cooling and can help save data centers energy and we have available land,” Meuleman said. “The only issue we face when it comes to putting pencil to paper on these projects is that we don’t offer tax relief.”
Several companies have visited Idaho, but have opted to build data centers in states that have passed tax incentives to offset the cost of replacing equipment. Data centers have to replace servers and other pieces of equipment every three to five years, Meuleman said.
The department couldn’t name the companies that have visited Idaho because of confidentiality agreements, but Meuleman said that Amazon and Google are good examples of the types of companies that have been building additional data centers around the country.
“I was in Washington D.C. three years ago and had the opportunity to go to a presentation by Google where they were discussing how they make their decisions,” said Jay Larsen, president of the Idaho Technology Council. “They had just decided to go to Provo, Utah and they did that because of an incentive like this.”
The house committee voted unanimously in favor of the bill after listening to testimony from three of Idaho’s seven data centers and from several business associations in favor of the incentive. The bill will now go before the full House of Representatives.
“Idaho is easily a top five when it comes to site selection,” Matt Klinger, vice president of the data center Fiber Pipe, said about Idaho’s climate and geography. “But it comes down to a checklist and the last box that these companies are unable to check off is tax incentives.”