SALT LAKE CITY — Sales double twice a year at the Toasters sandwich shop in downtown Salt Lake City when tens of thousands of plaid-shirted outdoor retailer representatives arrive in town for a massive industry trade show.
And Laser Exhibitor Service hires 100 people before each show to set up and take down about 60 exhibitor booths for the Outdoor Retailer shows.
But Toasters owners Enes and Mubera Huskic and Laser owner Adam Swillinger won’t get that business anymore after the show announced last week it will leave Salt Lake City after two decades because of the stance by the state’s Republican leadership on public lands. This summer’s show could be the last one held in Utah.
The Huskics say they may have to cut back employee hours at their location across the street from the convention center, one of four they operate.
“They were a lifeline, a safety net,” said Enes Huskic. “They were giving us peace of mind.”
The small business owners joined Democratic state leaders this week to speak out against Utah’s Republican leadership for what they called a stubborn stance on public lands that will leave the state without an estimated $45 million in direct spending the shows bring annually.
Democrat State Party Chair Peter Corroon said the state’s “land-grab” rhetoric has gone too far. Salt Lake County Councilman Jim Bradley said the state should do more to protect the majestic red rock lands of southern Utah that draw visitors from around the world.
“Outdoor recreation is a sustainable business. It will last forever if we protect the product,” Bradley said.
Outdoor Retailer announced its decision after a conference call in which Gov. Gary Herbert refused to stand down from asking President Donald Trump to rescind the new Bears Ears National Monument. Outdoor industry leaders had previously met with members of Utah’s congressional delegation in Washington to make the same demands.
Herbert and the state’s Republican congressional delegation say they also want protections for the sacred tribal lands of the Bears Ears area but oppose the designation, made by former President Barack Obama during his final weeks, because they believe it adds a layer of unnecessary federal control and closes the areas for new development and oil and gas extraction.
A day after the show announced it would leave Utah, Herbert signed a resolution asking Utah’s congressional delegation to support shrinking southern Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, designed in 1996.
Utah also lost a chance to bid for the Interbike trade show, a large cycling exhibition which is considering leaving Las Vegas next year.
Emerald Expositions, which puts on the Outdoor Retailer and Interbike shows, said last week it would no longer consider Salt Lake City as a host candidate for the Interbike show. The company declined to say what cities are under consideration, citing a confidential bid process.
The Outdoor Retailer show is expected to finish the bid process for a new host city over the next several months, said spokeswoman Kate Lowery. The summer show in July will still be in Salt Lake City but the organization is reconsidering options for two shows contracted to take place in Utah in 2018, Lowery said.
Colorado, Montana and Oregon have all said they’re interesting in becoming the new host city a business-to-business expo that allows store owners to meet with manufacturers and preview products that will reach the retail market soon.
Boyd Matheson, who runs the conservative Sutherland Institute policy think tank based in Salt Lake City, said Utah state leaders should be applauded for holding their ground and not caving to a small but powerful arm of the outdoor industry he claims has an “environmental agenda.”
“You cannot allow out-of-state interest to drive policy,” Matheson said. “That’s a recipe for disaster for the state.”