SALT LAKE CITY – Democrats and Salt Lake City business owners are blasting Governor Gary Herbert and Republican lawmakers after the Outdoor Retailer show opted not to include Utah in the list of possible sites for future shows.
Their argument was without the OR show bringing in people, Utah businesses would be affected.
Toaster’s Deli is a popular stop for people attending the OR show twice a year, but, with the show on its way out, owner, Enes Huskic worries about his future.
“It will be a big loss for us. Our January and August sales would be double more than the rest of the months,” Huskic said.
Utah loses out on nearly 50,000 people that visit every year who spend an estimated $45 million.
“Our employees are going to be affected,” said Adam Swillinger, a trade show specialist. His crews set up for the OR shows.
At a press conference held outside the Salt Palace Convention Center on Tuesday, Democratic leaders blamed Governor Herbert and Republican lawmakers stance on public lands for botching the two-decade partnership with OR.
“When you have a one-party state, this is what happens. We see more and more of the conservative, right-wing rhetoric. Now it has an effect,” said Peter Corroon, Chairman of the Utah Democratic Party.
Corroon isn’t confident the state can find a replacement for the OR show. He says the state, county and city leaders are forced to make some tough decisions.
“You either make up that income or cut services. I don't think the people of Utah want to see either of those happen,” said Corroon.
Sam Granato, Salt Lake County council member, sits on the Governor’s board of economic development. He tendered his resignation effective immediately.
“I was honored to be there but I can’t move forward," Granato said.
Granato is now relying on the public to help come up with solutions.
“I think people need to delve into it. Find out what's really going on and how do we fix it?” Granato said.
There is an effort underway by the Utah Progressives PAC to convince OR to come back to Utah. They have started a petition.
James M. Evans, Chairman and part of Utah Republican Party, responded to Democrats and businesses owners in a statement:
It is unfortunate that the Outdoor Retailer Show has decided to leave the great state of Utah. Under the leadership of Governor Herbert so much has been done to safeguard and protect the public lands of Utah:
- Including the rehabilitation and restoration of more than 265,000 acres in our state.
- Utah State Legislature has partnered with local hunters and the federal government to invest $14 million just for conservation alone.
- Governor Herbert was the first governor in the United States to create an Office of Outdoor Recreation.
- The state of Utah, Salt Lake City, and Salt Lake County contribute a combined total of $1.4 million annually for the Outdoor Retailer Show.
It is woven in Utahns DNA to be good stewards of our lands and any assertion to the contrary could not withstand scrutiny. And as already stated, we simply cannot allow an organization to define for us what we can or cannot do as a state.