Just when Salt Lake County is buying land downtown to build a new convention hotel in large part to satisfy the needs of the bi-annual Outdoor Retailers Trade show, an industry leader is calling on the retailers to take their convention elsewhere.
Peter Metcalf, of Salt Lake’s Black Diamond Equipment, drew a line in the sand over the new Bears Ears National Monument that conservative Utah politicians—which is nearly all of them—want to overturn.
Gov. Gary Herbert and Utah’s D.C. delegation are leading a national all-out assault on the sanctity of Utah and the country’s public lands. Together, Utah’s political leadership has birthed an anti-public lands political agenda that is the driving force of an existential threat to the vibrancy of Utah and America’s outdoor industry, as well as Utah’s high quality of life.
It’s important to note at this point that Utah’s outdoors bring $12 billion to the state and provide 120,000 jobs, while the Outdoor Retailer show alone brings in $50 million in direct spending to Utah.
In 2012, OR leadership attempted to put similar pressure on the state over threats of a state take over of federal lands. At that time, Herbert’s environmental advisor Alan Matheson told Salt Lake magazine that OR officials were using the lands issue to leverage a new hotel and more exhibition space. And, indeed, the threat was forgotten as soon as state and county officials promised to move forward on expanding convention facilities and a hotel.
Let’s face it, Salt Lake offers nearby mountains in which to demo new equipment and a convenient airport. Add to that a posh new hotel, and the retailers—when push comes to shove, are more about money than environmental ethics—aren’t going anywhere. And Utah politicians, most who live outside the Wasatch Front, don’t give a damn about Salt Lake’s booze-driven, city-slicker economy.
On the other hand, maybe Matheson was a prophet when he told me that OR “is a growing and powerful industry. They are trying to figure out if they can exert political influence commensurate with their economic influence and how, when and where to flex that muscle.”
Maybe that day has come.