SALT LAKE CITY — The Outdoor Retailer show is telling Salt Lake City to take a hike following a "curt" conference call with the governor.
The group will end its 20-year tie with Utah after next year's shows, announcing Thursday it will not consider any bids from the Beehive State because of the industry's frustration with state efforts to undo the new Bears Ears National Monument.
"Salt Lake City has been hospitable to Outdoor Retailer and our industry for the past 20 years, but we are in lockstep with the outdoor community and are working on finding our new home,” said Marisa Nicholson, show director for Outdoor Retailer.
A spokesman for Gov. Gary Herbert called the decision "offensive."
"It smacks of gross ingratitude to a community that has embraced the Outdoor Retailer show, subsidizing its success and expansion through direct investment — let alone extraordinary hospitality," said Paul Edwards, the governor's deputy chief of staff.
The announcement came just hours after a conference call between the governor and the Outdoor Industry Association, the sponsor of the biannual trade show, came to "sort of a curt finish."
The sticking point was recent efforts by the state to persuade President Donald Trump to reverse the creation of the new 1.35-million-acre monument in San Juan County by then-President Barack Obama in the final days of his presidency.
A resolution was passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor urging Trump to rescind the monument. Herbert will sign a separate resolution seeking to shrink the size of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, his office said.
In response to the legislative action, Patagonia and a growing number of other companies had said they would not continue to exhibit at the Outdoor Retailer show if it stays in Utah.
"We felt that we were being presented with an ultimatum," Edwards told reporters after the conference call.
The association said in a statement that the leadership of Patagonia, The North Face, REI and Outdoor Retailer were also on the call. "Unfortunately, what we heard from Gov. Herbert was more of the same.
"It is clear that the governor indeed has a different perspective on the protections of public lands from that of our members and the majority of Western state voters, both Republicans and Democrats — that’s bad for our American heritage, and it’s bad for our businesses."
Edwards, speaking before the announcement that Salt Lake City would be excluded from bidding for future shows, called the discussion "frustrating" and said it ended with "sort of a curt finish."
Visit Utah President and CEO Scott Beck said "there were no threats" made during the call that the summer and winter exhibitions of outdoor products would leave before the current contract is up in 2018.
But Beck said a new "ethos" provision in future requests for bids to host the trade show would hurt Salt Lake City. He said he could not put a price tag on the revenue that would be lost, but said other, likely smaller conventions could be booked.
Edwards said the association "expressed to us their frustration with seeing a state pass a resolution hostile to a monument designation." He said the governor's offer to help put together a group "to work through differences" was not accepted.
"We are largely in agreement. We all want protection of those areas," Edwards said, but there may be a better way than a monument designation. "They didn't want to engage in any dialog," he said, other than keeping the monument in place.
"It shows how a political agenda, rather than reason or merit, seems to have captured the decision-making at the Outdoor Industry Association," Edwards said Thursday evening. He said some $2 million that the state would contribute toward the Outdoor Retailer show "could be redirected" to help Utah companies.
Earlier in the day, the governor said he would consider talking about reversing the resolution.
"We'll have that discussion today and see, in fact, how that comes about," Herbert said during the taping of his monthly news conference on KUED. "Again, my job is to reflect the desires and the will of the people in Utah."
He said Utah has been consistent in saying, "We want to have a legislative fix," citing the stalled Public Lands Initiative proposed by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, that would "bring peace to really 18 million acres" in the state.
Other places, including Colorado, are actively competing to host the show, estimated to contribute tens of millions of dollars in state and local tax revenues.
Thousands of Outdoor Retailer attendees spend an average of $1,019 each in Salt Lake, according to an assessment by Visit Salt Lake and the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, meaning that the two events combined inject nearly $50 million annually into the city's economy.
But that's just 10 days worth of economic activity, Beck says, going toward things like restaurants, hotels, shopping and local attractions. "The economic impact is exponentially higher."
On Wednesday, Conservation Colorado ran advertisements in Utah's two largest newspapers encouraging the Outdoor Retailer show to move to Colorado, a campaign that will continue with digital ads aimed at wooing the show.
Pete Maysmith, the group's executive director, said Colorado "has a long and proud history of protecting our public lands. If the outdoor industry is looking for show locations that reflect its values of stewardship and a passion for outdoor recreation, it should look no further than the Centennial State."
The Outdoor Industry Association had said in a statement before the meeting that if it was unable to reach an agreement, “OIA will continue to work with Outdoor Retailer to move the show as soon as possible."
Herbert, the association said, is being asked "to stop all efforts to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument through executive order, to stop efforts to gut the Antiquities Act and to support keeping our public lands public for all Americans to enjoy."
Herbert said his preference is to have land in San Juan County protected through action by Congress. He said the issue can be resolved "in the best interests of everyone" with action by a new president and Congress.
"For me, it's a better opportunity legislatively," the governor said. "It's kind of a repeal and replace. We're going to replace it with this and repeal the monument. That's how I envision it."
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said if the Outdoor Retailer show decides to leave Utah, it won't be part of future discussions about the state's public lands and outdoor recreation.
“Please stay at the table and work with us,” Niederhauser urged the retailers.
He said Utah is a much better place for the outdoor industry showcase.
“My argument for the people of Colorado is that we are still the outdoor capital,” Niederhauser said. “We have more federal land than they do. We have more open space than they do.”
The governor said when it comes to the Outdoor Retailer show and the association, Utah has "been a blessing to them, too. They've doubled or tripled over the last 20 years since they've been sited here in Utah."141 comments on this story
Herbert said it's in the trade show's best interest to stay put because "there is in fact no better place than here in Utah" for outdoor recreation opportunities with more than 35 million acres of public lands.
Utah Democratic Party Chairman Peter Corroon slammed the Republican governor and GOP-controlled Legislature for costing the state $45 million in revenues from losing the Outdoor Retailer show.
“Today all Utahns are feeling the consequences of the far-right agenda of the Utah Republican Party," Corroon said in a statement, adding that the governor "refuses to drop the party lines for the betterment of Utah's economy."
Contributing: Ryan Morgan