Officials hope outdoor trade show brings manufacturers to Springs

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The nation’s largest outdoor recreation trade show will move to Denver in January 2018, which could create a major economic impact for Colorado’s capital city. But community leaders in Colorado Springs are hoping some of those benefits trickle southward.

The Outdoor Retailer show was in Salt Lake City the last two decades but signed a five-year contract for three shows annually in the Mile-High City. The trade show left Salt Lake City because of political differences on environmental issues with Utah leaders.

“It’s a big deal for Denver but also a big deal for Colorado as far as positioning our state as a leader in the outdoor recreation industry,” said David Leinweber, owner of Angler’s Covey and chairman and founder of the Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance.

Leinweber said the Springs could profit from people visiting before or after the shows in Denver, but the “Ogden Effect” could bring the biggest benefit to the Pikes Peak region.

“When the [Outdoor Retailer show] was in Salt Lake twice a year, a bunch of businesses moved to Ogden [Utah] to be closer to the show,” Leinweber said. “Over the next five years, we could see a lot of companies migrate closer to Denver, and we hope Colorado Springs is attractive to those outdoor companies.”

Local officials aren’t leaving it to chance, either.

“It’s what we make of it. It could be a really big deal,” said Hannah Parsons, chief economic development officer for the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC. “As the state’s second-largest city, with such a sports base and focus on the sporting industry, I think this being in Denver could have a tremendous impact.”

Joseph Rodriguez fishes at Memorial Park’s Prospect Lake. Colorado outdoor recrecreation generates billions in consumer spending.

Parsons has  met with representatives of the Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau, along with Becky Leinweber, who is David’s wife and executive director of the PPORA.

“We want to identify specific companies that are going to be at the summer show and offer to bring them down to Colorado Springs on a bus and show them what the outdoor recreation opportunities are down here,” she said. “We talk about getting the ‘I-had-no-idea’ effect. I love it if people come to Colorado Springs and experience how accessible we are, how affordable we are, what a hip culture we have. I love it when their reaction is, ‘Oh, I had no idea.’ That’s why we think our best-spent dollars will be to take a very targeted approach and make sure they have a good grasp of what we offer and bring them here. It’s much easier to show than just to tell.”

‘Compelling reasons’

Three retail shows are scheduled in 2018: the Snow Show is Jan. 25-28, the Summer Market is July 23-26 and the Winter Market is Nov. 8-11. The shows are expected to feature hundreds of company booths showing off products to business owners in hopes of driving sales.

Leinweber, who is also on the Colorado Outdoor Advisory Committee, consults regularly with Luis Benitez of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, who worked tirelessly to bring Outdoor Retailers to Denver.

Benitez said Outdoor Retailers could mean as much as $45 million per show in direct and indirect economic benefits — most of it for Denver.

But, Springs hotels and restaurants might also benefit.

“Everybody I talk to tries to tack on an extra day or two when they come to the show,” said Becky Leinweber. “I think a lot of those people will come down to Colorado Springs. But we’re not counting on it passively; we’re strategically trying to get some of them here.”

Parsons described the Leinwebers as “the community’s ambassadors for the outdoor rec industry” and said they can help get manufacturers to visit the Springs. The Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, along with the Springs Chamber & EDC will be a big part of the welcoming committee if manufacturers visit.

“If they’re an outdoor equipment manufacturer,” Parsons said, “I’d want to make sure they’re aware of the things that we know are such compelling reasons to do business here: our available space, access to test markets, and great utility rates — that’s something manufacturing companies really value. Since they’re going to be in Denver, we don’t want them to leave the state without knowing what we have to offer. Outdoor rec is certainly not my area of expertise; that’s why we take a support position to the PPORA group. We have, I think, historically been somewhat of a small player in the outdoor rec industry but there’s the potential to be a really big player.”

Trade show officials will feel at home in Colorado, Leinweber said. But whether manufacturers will follow Outdoor Retailers to the state, or the Pikes Peak region, remains to be seen, she said.

The city has its competitors — Fort Collins, Estes Park and Steamboat Springs — also are  lining up to pitch their cities to outdoor manufacturers. Benitez says they all have a shot at attracting businesses.

“I think it is all about how regions present themselves at the show,” he said in an email. “Odgen in Utah was successful in growing as an economic cluster because their mayor went to the show, took meetings, walked the trade show floor [and] sponsored happy hours.”