On June 15, the Utah Governor's Economic Development Board (GOED) voted to approve a $250,000 cash incentive to Outdoor Retailer, ostensibly to help smooth the way for the show to stay in Salt Lake City for much longer than the current contracted period. The monies will be paid via a cash withdrawal from the state's Industrial Assistance Fund, which, according to The Salt Lake Tribune story on the deal, "normally provides cash grants to companies moving to or expanding in the state." The money will be directed at Summer Market activities, the story stated, from now until Outdoor Retailer's existing show contract expires in 2009. GOED officials apparently justified the cash deal by stating either Outdoor Retailer or Outdoor Industry Association could decide to pull the show out of Salt Lake City once the contract expires.
To link to The Salt Lake Tribune story, click here.
SNEWS® View: While this does sound like a chunk of change for, well, not much, it is important to realize this is more along the lines of make-good money than just a suitcase full of cash that show director Kenji Haroutunian and his team will use for a new yacht or a raging good beach party in Malibu. We know from talking with insiders familiar with the original expansion deal that when the Salt Palace expansion was approved and Outdoor Retailer agreed to stay in Salt Lake City as a result, the expansion was slated to take the exhibit floor from 365,000 square feet of continuous space to 575,000 square feet of contiguous space -- the ballroom and meeting rooms are extra. During construction, there was a bit of sizing back to save money, with the Salt Palace moving what was supposed to be on-floor exhibit space into off-floor meeting rooms. The result was that between 80,000 to 100,000 square feet of space Outdoor Retailer had counted on became far less desirable since it was no longer on the floor. And because of that, you could say city officials are a bit nervous these days…deservedly so.
Say what you will about the quality of exhibitors and the never-ending debate about who should and who should not be exhibiting, Outdoor Retailer remains sold out with an ever-expanding waiting list of folks who want in. Many of those who do get in often end up getting pushed into undesirable meeting rooms and back rooms. Consider too that as a result of all the demand, Outdoor Retailer will be moving part of the show in summer 2008, we've heard, into the Energy Solutions Arena (formerly known as the Delta Center).
So what will Outdoor Retailer do with the $250,000? Insiders tell us that the money the trade show producer receives from this fund will be used to better market the show and drive traffic to those potentially less-than-desirable exhibit locations…and that's a very good thing.
Outdoor Retailer is also working to bring more attention to Salt Lake City for outdoor recreation, attention that is not lost on city and state officials. This summer, for example, there will be a bouldering championship held on top of the parking structure at the Shilo. It is timed to be there because of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market. Without the trade show's presence, you would hear little more than the sound of breezes blowing through empty exhibit halls and down empty city streets.
As for Outdoor Industry Association receiving any of this money indirectly, it remains to be seen and is up to Outdoor Retailer. Yes, OIA is a partner in that the association endorses the Outdoor Retailer trade shows and receives monies from Outdoor Retailer as a result. But beyond that, OIA does not control where or how the show is held. Granted, all that may change sometime in the future as OIA's contract between Outdoor Retailer and its parent Nielsen (formerly VNU) is set to expire in August 2008. We can only assume the two are negotiating as we speak, to the benefit of the entire industry.
Oh, and one more thing. Would someone please do us all a favor and alert the reporters at The Salt Lake Tribune, and while you're at it, alert all those crazy folks who produce the thank you banners and signs for Outdoor Retailer that Outdoor Retailer is singular, not plural? Outdoor Retailers is just, well, wrong. Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, yes. Outdoor Retailers Summer Market, no.