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Utah is place for outdoor retailers for another 3 years

Published: Friday, Aug. 6 2010 12:51 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — The outdoor industry showed its love for Utah on Thursday by promising to come back for another three years.

The Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau finalized agreements with Outdoor Retailer Winter and Summer markets through 2014. The previous contract was set to expire next summer.

"What it means to Utah is that we continue to be relevant," said Scott Beck, CEO of the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau. "That's really important as you look at trade shows in particular."

That's because the show brings between $35 million and $40 million in direct visitor spending to Salt Lake City and surrounding communities. This year more than 21,000 manufacturers, retailers and suppliers to the outdoor industry have converged on the city and Salt Palace Aug. 3-6, generating more than $19.4 million for the state.

Beck said industry representatives love the welcome they get from locals and business owners.

"The thing we heard over and over again from them is that everyone knows when you're here" Beck said.

Business owners remember the visitors, call them by name and go out of their way to accommodate the out-of-towners.

"They really feel like part of our community," he said. "That's the human element that's part of our culture."

What's almost as impressive is that this year's show is the second biggest since 2007 — which preceded the recession.

This year's show saw a 28 percent increase in pre-registered attendees and a 4 percent increase in exhibit space sold. More than 4,000 retailers are displaying their products, services and businesses at the Salt Palace this week.

The show is likely to continue to grow and evolve as organizers and locals try to accommodate the growing industry.

"Clearly there are issues," Beck said concerning securing the return of the trade shows. "Growth is an issue. ... There are people who want to be part of this trade show that can't get into the Salt Palace."

To deal with some of those issues, a task force has been formed that will try to come up with unique ways to accommodate the industry, which enjoys significant support in Utah.

He pointed to the Outdoor Demo Days at Jordanelle this year as the kind of situations that could include vendors that are better served in venues outside the four walls of a convention center.

"It's a much larger footprint (than what is contained in the Salt Palace)," he said of the outdoor industry. "The Jordanelle isn't that traditional experience. We have to do it in a way that's sustainable. This is a growth industry."

e-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com

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