The city of Portland has been invited to bid for one of the country's largest outdoor retail trade shows, and if successful it could mean big things for the entire region.
The invitation came late Monday night, Feb. 27, from organizers with Outdoor Retailer, a massive biannual event that drew a record 29,000 attendees last year and is estimated to bring $45 million annually to the host city.
"Getting the trade show would be huge because of the economic development it would provide to everyone in the region," said Lori Stegmann, Multnomah County District 4 commissioner. "We are the perfect place for this trade show."
The bids are due by March 31, and local leaders like Stegmann have been busy putting together letters in support of the convention. Denver and other outdoor-focused cities are also expected to throw their hats into the ring.
Outdoor Retailer offers a chance to see innovations in outdoor travel gear from more than 1,000 national and international brands. The show is considered the most powerful buying event in the outdoor industry, with quality products and technology.
It also is vastly larger than any other convention held in Portland last year.
Outdoor Retailer had been held in Salt Lake City for the past 20 years, but a dispute with Utah's governor over his recent stance on federal lands, specifically related to weakened protection for the Bear Ears National Monument, led the show to look for a new home. It will remain in Utah this summer before a new location is determined.
"Our values align with what they want," Stegmann said.
The Portland bid will be a combination of offering convention space, hotel capacity, efficient public transit systems and the community's passion for the outdoors.
There also will be discussions on how best to utilize East Multnomah County and the bevy of outdoor activities available, including hiking, biking, rafting, fishing and camping. Some of the conversation would be about creating excursions or workshops that would be held in places like Gresham and Troutdale.
"We could take this by the horns and work in coordination with Travel Portland and Travel Oregon," Stegmann said. "There could be excursions to Multnomah Falls and Mount Hood, and lectures in the East County cities."
She sees this as an opportunity for the four cities — Gresham, Troutdale, Fairview and Wood Village — to come together and work for economic development. With easy access to the Oregon Convention Center via MAX light-rail train, many attendees could stay in hotels in East Multnomah County and ride into Portland or out to adventures, getting the full TriMet experience.
"When you talk about outdoor enthusiasts, one of our main draws is our proximity to natural resources," Stegmann said. "We have almost every climate here in Oregon, and I think we have shown examples of how to protect our scenic areas right."
Stegmann is lending her voice to other Oregon officials who have penned letters to organizers with Outdoor Retailer. Some who have already spoken include Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, Reps. Suzanne Bonamici and Earl Blumenauer, Gov. Kate Brown and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler.
In a joint letter, Brown and Wheeler wrote "We are proud of our history of caring for our natural resources. Outdoor recreation is in Oregon's DNA. Our values reflect the values of the many retailers, vendors, and consumers of the Outdoor industry. The State of Oregon and the City of Portland are committed to hosting Outdoor Retailer and Grassroots Connect."
Of all those vying for the hosting opportunity, Portland seems well positioned. The state is known for outdoor recreation with many companies leading a global charge — retailers such as Nike, Columbia Sportswear, Adidas, Keen, Danner and Snow Peak call the city home. Oregon is also committed to fostering public land and protecting natural wonders.
Many say the show could provide a major economic boost to the region by bringing upwards of 30,000 people to the region twice a year.
"There is not just a city, but an entire state joining in support of this bid," Stegmann said. "It's the perfect marriage between economic development and Mother Nature."