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Denver To Make Pitch for Outdoor Retailer Show

Denver officials will soon be making a pitch to lure the nation’s largest trade show for the outdoor industry. 

KUNC’s Brian Larson spoke with Boulder County Business Report publisher Chris Wood about efforts to bring the Outdoor Retailer show to the Mile High City.

Larson: The Outdoor Retailer trade show is currently held twice a year in Salt Lake City once in January and again in August. In fact it’s just wrapped up its August run. It’s a pretty big deal where trade shows are concerned – pulling in some $40 million dollars last year. I’d imagine this is one of the main reasons that Denver is trying to lure it away.

Wood: The Outdoor Retailer show actually has Colorado roots. It’s organized by the Boulder-based Outdoor Industry Association. And that $40 million is expected to grow to $500 million to $700 million dollars in economic impact over the next decade. The show has also been ranked as one of the Top 25 fastest-growing trade shows by attendance in the United States.

Larson: Those are very significant numbers. So who is actually behind the effort to bring it to Denver, and why now?

Wood: The effort is being led by Visit Denver, a nonprofit trade group that runs on both public and private funds, with some support from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. They’re responding to the fact that the Outdoor Retail Show is currently contracted with Salt Lake City through 2014 but has sought other proposals for the decade beyond that.

Larson: 43,000 people traveled to Utah last year to attend this tradeshow. Why would organizers consider leaving Salt Lake City?

Wood: The Outdoor Retailers Show has grown a lot in recent years, so much so that some exhibitors have been set up in a tent outside the Salt Palace Convention Center. But the Colorado Convention Center isn’t any bigger than the one in Salt Lake City. So Denver officials are believed to be proposing to incorporate other facilities, including the Pepsi Center and the National Western Stock Show complex. Also, the OIA has been critical of some public-lands policies in Utah, accusing the state in a recent letter of not having a collaborative policy relationship with the outdoor industry.

Larson: You noted that the Outdoor Industry Association is already based in Boulder. There are hundreds of outdoor-industry companies not only in the Boulder Valley but elsewhere in the state. I would think that that has to be huge a consideration for the industry in moving this show here.

Wood: That’s really the main factor, Brian. As I’ve noted, the show itself would have a huge economic impact — OIA executive director Frank Hugelmeyer has characterized it as Olympic-sized — but supporters of bringing the show to Colorado also view it as a way to grow the industry here. Boulder itself is arguably the center of the outdoor industry nationwide, but there are other competitors, including cities in Utah and the Pacific Northwest.

Larson: So what’s next in the process?

Wood: Visit Denver is expected to deliver a follow-up proposal in September, but the OIA hasn’t yet said when it will make a final decision.

Larson: Chris Wood is the publisher of the Boulder County Business Report.

Email: brian.larson@kunc.org
Boulder County Business Report publisher Chris Wood helped create the Northern Colorado Business Report in 1995. He previously served as managing editor of the Denver Business Journal. Chris discusses regional business and economic issues in Boulder County every other Thursday at 5:35 and 7:35 during Morning Edition.
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