It’s not often that you have one of the foremost CEOs in the outdoor industry calling for the boycott of an entire state. However, earlier today The Salt Lake Tribune published a scathing op-ed by Black Diamond CEO and Founder, Peter Metcalf, calling for the outdoor industry’s premier trade show, the bi-annual Outdoor Retailer, to pull out of Utah at the end of its contract, which expires in 2018.
Metcalf, prompted by Utah’s political leadership and their push to privatize public lands, including the recently federally-protected Bears Ears National Monument, sees the current initiatives by the state’s leadership as an utter failure, in terms of both environmental and economic policy. Utah is a world-renowned outdoor recreation destination and the outdoor industry currently contributes around $650 billion dollars to the GNP (gross national productivity), according to Metcalf, and $12 billion of that is generated in Utah, creating over 120,000 jobs within the state.
— Salt Lake Tribune (@sltrib) January 10, 2017
Metcalf further outlines in the piece how OR draws some $50 million dollars of direct spending to the state of Utah annually and is attended by a who’s who of outdoor industry companies, ambassadors, and athletes. If OR pulls out of Utah, it will not only have a direct affect on the local and statewide economy, but it could also set a precedent, and inspire other outdoor companies to follow suit.
Black Diamond isn’t the only large outdoor brand based in Utah. Large e-commerce retailer Backcountry and their subsidiaries are local, as well as Goal Zero, Petzl, and Skullcandy – not to mention a plethora of boutique ski brands like 4Frnt and Armada. Black Diamond is publicly held, which might make it more difficult to pack up and leave, but if Utah’s land policy has a negative impact on revenue, it might not be so hard to convince shareholders that it makes for a fiscally-responsible move.
The dissatisfaction of Metcalf has to be music to the ears of progressive cities in the West that are already home to multiple outdoor brands and have quick access to public lands like Seattle, Portland, and the Bay Area, municipalities that would surely welcome BD and others with open arms. Not to mention cities like Denver, Boise, and Minneapolis that would literally swoon over the chance to host the outdoor world’s economic powerhouse of a trade show (Idaho’s legislature reportedly got involved to influence such a relocation).
With the incoming leadership’s terrible track record on environmental issues including a President-Elect who still questions the legitimacy of climate change, we may see an uptick in the importance of statewide policy. If states that prioritize environmental policy become hotbeds of outdoor recreation revenue, places like Utah might be forced to reexamine their priorities.
While the future of OR and Black Diamond is still up in the air, don’t be surprised if OR is shopping for a new home come 2018 (as has seemingly been rumored every other year in the recent past). For an industry that depends on public land access and environmental protection, Metcalf’s stance is a positive start that would ideally spark a trend: outdoor manufacturers using combined resources to positively affect climate and outdoor policy.