Utah loses nothing from the departure of Outdoor Retailer

By Jesse Harris

At some point in your life, you deal with someone so needy you have to cut them off. They start off asking for the small favors (“can I get a ride to the store”) and before long they keep on kicking up the demands until it’s the plot of a bad Adam Sandler comedy (“can I borrow $10,000 to get my degree in underwater basketweaving”). This time around, the obnoxious and demanding lout is played by Outdoor Retailer, a group that seems to believe we owe them the world by their mere presence. Well guys, don’t let the door hit you too hard on the way out.

Much of the ballyhooing is about the amount of money that the show brings to the Utah economy. Current estimates place it around $45M. In 2015, the Utah GDP was roughly around $131B. This places Outdoor Retailer around 0.03% of our total GDP, practically a rounding error. Compare that to the $75M the group wanted the state to spend on convention center upgrades including a new hotel that would likely drop room rates across the valley. That was just in 2013, and the group has made numerous demands for much more spending on convention facilities and hotels both before and after that. All of this has been made under the threat of “do this or we’re leaving”. Meanwhile, it sounds like they’ll be replaced without much effort.

The group has been blaming the state push for greater control of federal lands, but this seems like a smokescreen. When the show first moved here, the uproar over Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was fresh, a pretty clear indicator of our state’s attitude on too much federal involvement in land management. The policy of insisting that more federal lands be relinquished to state control has been longstanding. It’s perplexing for them to just now decide that, based on Bears Ears, that it’s suddenly a problem. You knew what we were when you came here.

And what is Utah? Well, it’s a state that does a pretty good job of home-grown conservation. Don’t believe it? Maybe you should read the rather exhaustive list compiled from LaVar Webb. Utah does more than a lot of other states to preserve and maintain public lands. We have an extensive state parks system and readily advertise our outdoor recreation opportunities. Entire towns, most of them rural, have staked their economic future on outdoor recreation. To say that we don’t understand it because we don’t think the feds are acting in our interests is absurd at best.

At this point, I’m glad to see Outdoor Retailer go. Some other state can deal with the whiny, grandstanding moochers. We can and will do better than them.

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