Spencer Cox in 2014.
Outside Business Journal

Utah Governor on Outdoor Retailer’s Absence Since 2018: ‘We Did Not Miss Them at All’

Utah Governor Spencer Cox expressed indifference this week to Outdoor Retailer's possible return to Salt Lake City


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Utah Governor Spencer Cox didn’t mince words this week in his response to the news that 25 major companies—including REI and Patagonia—plan to boycott Outdoor Retailer if the trade show returns to Salt Lake City. Asked what he thinks of the show’s biggest customers protesting a move to Utah, Cox said at a press conference Thursday that the state has gotten along just fine since the show abandoned Salt Lake City for Denver in 2018.

“I sincerely mean this: we did not miss [Outdoor Retailer] at all,” Cox said Thursday. “I think it would be great to have them come back, but they’re hurting their own cause. I think that’s what they really don’t realize, because they gave up their seat at the table.”

The statement contradicts a video distributed by Cox late last year, in which the governor called on OR to consider returning to Utah when its current contract with the City of Denver expires at the end of 2022. “We’ve missed you for for the past several years,” Cox said in that video.

This week, Cox walked back that stance, emphasizing the strength of Utah’s economy even without the trade show. “We were told [Outdoor Retailer leaving Utah] would be the end of the world, that our economy would crash, businesses would never move here, it would be awful for our state,” Cox said at the press event this week. “Turns out, none of that happened. We have the best economy in the nation. Our outdoor industry is thriving—it’s stronger than it’s ever been—which is one of the reasons they’re trying to move [the show] back here.”

The governor also challenged the stance of the boycotting companies directly, saying, “If Patagonia and these other companies really care about this issue, they would want to be here to have this discussion, not go somewhere where everybody thinks exactly like them. That threat of boycott will do absolutely nothing to change any policy that’s happening here in the state of Utah. Not even an inch. We won’t give it another thought.”

Despite the strong language, Cox concluded his remarks by expressing interest in welcoming the show back if Emerald X, OR’s parent company, eventually makes the decision to relocate it.

“Clearly, coming back to Salt Lake makes sense,” the governor said in his statement Thursday. “Our airport is closer, our venues are less expensive, our outdoors are much closer. Come back and join the discussion. You can help make a difference. You can help to temper some of the things that are happening. We can find common ground. We may not agree about everything, but I think there are some things that we definitely agree on.”