How the outdoor industry feels about moving to Denver for Outdoor Retailer conference

We hear more about why the Outdoor Industry Association show is moving to Denver.

Amy Roberts leads the Outdoor Industry Association, a group of 1,200 plus retailers that made their voices loud and clear: wherever their show lands, those lands must remain public and protected. 

Roberts has been at the helm for the past two years.

9NEWS spoke with her in the final days of the Outdoor Retailer trade show in Salt Lake City, a place it has called home for two decades. 

In 2018, the show will move to Denver to partner up with the Snow Sports show. 

Roberts says although the move to Denver was political - those in the OIA simply didn't want to have their trade show in a state they felt was not protecting public lands - the issues themselves are not red or blue. 

"One of the messages we've tried really hard to drive, and it's difficult in such a polarized political environment, is that public lands and getting outside is a bipartisan issue. That's one reason Colorado was attractive is that it's a purple state, and no matter what your political stripe everyone loves to go outside," she said. 

Utah's state government was at odds with the OIA when Bears Ears National Monument's designation as such was at risk. It's more than one million protected acres, and it has come under intense scrutiny recently.

The debate has become more heated under the current administration, which is reviewing many national monument designations and may decrease the size of Bears Ears. (For more background, go here).

Naturally, the OIA wants to see it continue as a protected public land.

While not everyone in the industry agrees with the move, Roberts says it was a business decision, and one made with Denver's infrastructure at top of mind. It was also a choice made possible by the OIA 'finding its voice,' according to Roberts. 

"Denver has a centrally located airport that has international flight access," she said. "People are excited about the light rail, people have seen Union Station and what that looks like now, and I think also the nightlife in terms of all the different restaurants and bars."

Denver and Colorado seem a natural home for the show, especially after seeing the types of people (and varieties of flannel) present at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City. 

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and other leaders rallied hard to get the OR show to move to Denver. Roberts says it was a good fit because of how much the outdoor industry matters to Colorado, and how well protected it is by state law, and supported by state fundraising such as Colorado Lottery dollars. 

OIA data puts Colorado in the top 10 states nationwide for outdoor lifestyle spending by consumers annually, at 28 billion dollars.

"[That][ is pretty incredible because Colorado is definitely not in the top 10 in population of states across the country. So I think it shows what a powerful economic engine that is in Colorado. I think it also shows elected leaders in Colorado have made a conscious effort to support public lands but also invested in recreation infrastructure," Roberts said Friday.

It almost seems a cliche to call the move bittersweet, but nearly everyone we spoke to in Salt Lake described it as such. Utah has been good to the show, but ultimately, policy changed the game.

Roberts expressed her gratitude to the hotel and hospitality industry in Salt Lake City, but you can tell the industry is also anxious about new opportunities in the Mile High City. 

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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