A Denver announcement Thursday that it is the new home for the nation’s largest outdoor recreation trade show underscored an important aspect of modern business — politics matter.
The Outdoor Retailer trade show — actually two trade shows a year — confirmed that it is leaving Utah after 20 years and decamping east to Denver.
The change comes not because Denver has a bigger airport or extended a financial incentive. Organizers who made the announcement Thursday were frank that the reason they chose to move from Salt Lake City to Denver, starting in 2018, was because Colorado is more “progressive” and has a better “culture” for the industry.
Show organizers said in February that they were leaving Utah for a new long-term home because of Republican state leaders’ opposition to the new Bears Ears National Monument and other public land policies.
“We chose Denver because of Colorado’s long-term commitment to protecting and nurturing public lands,” said Marisa Nicholson, director of the Outdoor Retailer trade show.
The show had considered leaving Utah in the past over philosophical differences. It finally did after Gov. Gary Herbert signed a resolution calling on federal officials to rescind the monument that President Barack Obama designated on 1.3 million acres of land in southeastern Utah considered sacred to Native American tribes.
The show was under contract to host two shows in 2018 in Utah, but organizers had already said they were considering other options for next year.
The organization’s biannual events attracted an estimated $45 million in annual direct spending to Utah.
Outdoor Retailer’s producer, Emerald Expositions, announced in May that it had acquired a major ski-industry trade show held each January in Denver, the SnowSports Industries America Snow Show. That will continue, giving Denver three major outdoor trade conventions each year, in January, July and November.
The business boost comes in large part because of Colorado’s political culture, said Pete Maysmith, head of Conservation Colorado, an environmental advocacy group that did not participate in negotiations but attended Thursday’s announcement.
He said Utah’s politicians hurt their state’s bottom line by taking political stands unpopular with the outdoor industry.
“The industry made it very clear that that’s not a policy environment or a political environment where they want to have their show,” Maysmith said.
Of course, Colorado hasn’t always been on the winning side of businesses taking political stands.
Three years ago, a major ammunition manufacturer, Magpul Industries, moved its headquarters from Colorado to Wyoming in protest of Colorado’s passage of an ammunition magazine limit.
Magpul last year was selected by the U.S. Marine Corps as its exclusive maker of ammunition magazines.
Associated Press Writer Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.
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