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Retailer expo can translate into big money

Published: 07/20/2009
Utah made its mark on the winter sports community when the Olympics arrived in 2002, and now the Beehive State is taking all types of outdoor recreation by storm.

As thousands roll into Salt Lake City for the outdoor retailer convention this week, Utah's economy welcomes the growing reputation for outdoor recreation and the $19 million impact officials say the 20,000 attendees make during the weeklong visit.

And as a long-term impact, Utah has benefited from several companies relocating to the state after becoming aware of it through the semiannual convention.

"It's very significant. These companies get to see Utah as a great place to recreate and have fun and a great business environment," said Jeff Edwards, president of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah. "To companies like Amer Sports, creating a site in Utah was pretty appealing. It's a lower cost place to do business; and there are so many recreational opportunities that attract potential customers and workers."

The estimated $19 million in spending by attendees can seem small in comparison to companies relocating to Utah, bringing in revenue and creating jobs.

Nonetheless, the estimated $889.19 that attendees spend - which several officials say many visiting business manufacturers spend more than that - is helpful considering the outdoor retailer event is the largest convention in Utah. Attendees can visit a demonstration of new whitewater rafting supplies and other outdoor retail exhibits along the Pineview Reservoir and Ogden River Monday and then hit the 675,000 square foot REI-type store at the Salt Palace throughout the week.

"You'll walk down the aisle and see Life is Good, you'll see North Face, you'll see Teva, you'll see JanSport, all the products you recognize," said Scott Beck, president and CEO of Salt Lake Convention & Visitors' Bureau. "But it's next year's product line."

And several businesses that visited the event in the past ended up moving to Utah after realizing its "perfect location" for outdoor retail with skiing, snowboarding and hiking just minutes away from several urban environments. The easy access to outdoor recreation is what motivated convention organizers to relocate to Salt Lake City after initially hosting the event in Las Vegas years ago.

"We've been fighting to keep it for a long time," said Karen Boe, spokeswoman for the Salt Lake Convention & Visitors' Bureau. "A lot of these companies that have moved to Ogden and Salt Lake City would not have had Utah on their radar were it not for the outdoor retailer convention. It's a great place to do business."

Sport- and ice-climbing gear company Petzl, which is headquartered in France, was looking for a North American distribution center when they realized the environment Utah could provide for them.

"We wanted a place where people could live their passion. We are here because of the natural beauty of this place," Petzl president and CEO Mark Rasmussen said in a statement. "Our employees work for us because they are outdoor people. Utah provides a perfect blend of business and play."

Sport retail manufacturing companies Black Diamond and Amer Sports relocated to Utah after attending the convention and noticing the useful environment that provides testing areas for products so close by.

"Salt Lake, juxtaposed at the foot of the majestic Wasatch Mountains, offered us the resources necessary to grow our company," Black Diamond CEO Peter Metcalf said.