The heat is officially turned up to high, and there is little doubt that Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt is feeling less than comfortable under the broiler of public and media attention wrought by the Outdoor Industry Association's backing of the call by Peter Metcalf, president of Black Diamond, and Roody Rasmussen, president of Petzl America, to move the Outdoor Retailer trade shows unless the state clearly demonstrates a more pro-recreation, pro-wilderness stance.
The New York Times gave OIA a significant national platform to air the industry's concerns with an article that ran Friday, May 23, titled, "U.S.-Utah Land Accord Incites Unlikely Critics." Click here to read.
In the article, Gov. Leavitt made it quite clear his office was blindsided by the industry reaction that began with an editorial letter penned by Metcalf that ran in the Salt Lake Tribune.
Frank Hugelmeyer, president of OIA, told SNEWS early last week, in what has essentially become the party-line for the industry, "In Utah, recreation provides significant economic contributions to the state, especially recreation on public lands. However, the fact that public policy does not appear to recognize that is inappropriate and we're saying enough is enough."
No doubt now very afraid the state might lose Outdoor Retailer and the $24 million in annual contributions to Utah's economy, the Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau brought Hugelmeyer to town to meet with a group of 17 individuals, including the mayor of Salt Lake City, key city business leaders, and the mayor of the county.
"We came in with the message that we are here to discuss keeping the show in Salt Lake, not moving it," Hugelmeyer told SNEWS. "Those business leaders and the mayor now know what we are all about and have a very clear understanding of what they need to do to support us and, as a result, work to keep the show put and keep recreation dollars in the state."
Following that meeting, Hugelmeyer was whisked off to the governor's offices where Gov. Leavitt met the OIA entourage at a reception -- a key symbol of how importantly the governor is taking the issue.
"We had a good hour with Governor Leavitt and we made it very clear that we were just setting the table for his June 4 meeting with Peter (Metcalf) and Roody (Rasmussen)," said Hugelmeyer. "While we can't reverse the decision to essentially relax protection of six million acres of public land, we believe the governor understands that in his platform and vision for Utah that calls for an economic ecosystem built around quality of life, recreation is that ecosystem.
"The governor said all the right things to us, but we stressed to him that he needs to say those same things to our members when they meet with him next week and deliver on some tangible evidence that he is going to walk his talk," added Hugelmeyer.
Meanwhile, other states and communities are licking their chops over the prospect of hosting the industry and its premier trade shows.
The city council of Albuquerque, N.M., officially passed a resolution last week authorizing and urging its convention and visitor's bureau to begin seriously courting Outdoor Retailer Summer Market and Winter Market.
SNEWS View: This is what OIA membership is all about and the association is delivering for its members from a solid foundation of legislative and government experience, thanks in large part to Myrna Johnson's past and present leadership. As an industry, it is very clear that we can effect change and legislative direction where appropriate. Gov. Leavitt is on record saying he expected opposition from the environmental groups -- ho hum -- but never did he expect the economic clout of the outdoor industry to slap him into attention. National eyes are focused on our industry and this issue. OIA is receiving daily emails from consumers and non-members, as well as members, full of support and praise. And it all started with one member speaking out. We salute Peter Metcalf yet again and we feel proud that we're members of an industry association that is committed to backing its membership with a cause that is regionally based, but globally significant. Ultimately, the outcome of this issue could be a significant building block in a foundation of legislative change that affects the future of our industry economically and philosophically. As we've said before, membership has its rewards!