Utah.....the place to make it, play with it and sell it......

Posted On
May 26, 2011

Utah…the place to make it, play with it and sell it…..

By Riley Cutler

With over 100 manufacturers and distributors of outdoor equipment now operating in the State, Utah has become one of the top outdoor industry business clusters in the country. Several firms are located along the Wasatch Front from Logan to Provo, including Park City, with most in Ogden or Salt Lake City metro areas.  Ogden, once a bustling railroad town, hit the skids and continued to decline economically for many years.  But, for the past decade, Ogden has done a great job of promoting itself nationally as "the place" to move or grow an outdoor business.  Although Utah's natural outdoor environment is certainly an important factor, that's not the whole story. All this economic growth has been a result of active and diligent work. The business community, local and State government have all partnered to bring many of the very best companies to Utah.

Utah is blessed with outstanding and diverse natural resources and beauty.  From the "Greatest Snow on Earth®" in the north to the slickrock deserts and canyons in the south, Utah has a multiplicity of places to go for a vast variety of recreation opportunities.  To be sure, the national parks and monuments, as well as the wilderness quality lands are a very important reason there are so many outdoor businesses in Utah.  But, there are many good business reasons why an outdoor company should operate in Utah as well.

In the Utah Governor's Office of Economic Development (GOED) we like to say, Utah will excel in job creation, innovation, entrepreneurship, global business, and quality workforce and have a stable and sustainable business friendly environment.  This is a statement of which we are very proud, and it has been widely accepted in the business community.  Utah is a true crossroads in both digital and traditional infrastructure, with the added advantage of an international airport that departs over 900 flights daily across the US and to Europe and Asia. Utah boasts one of the most advanced broadband infrastructures in the U.S.  Major interstate highways bisect Utah; I-15 north and south,

I-80 and I-70 running east and west through the state. Several major train lines with departures from west coast ports pass through Utah's Inland Port rail hub. Product can be conveniently shipped to the west and east coasts, Great Plains states, the Canadian border, or into Mexico.

The overall business climate in Utah is very inviting - low taxes, a reasonable regulatory environment, low utility rates, a hard working and productive labor force, attractive real estate costs, and a great quality of life.  For many reasons, it makes sense to start or move a business to Utah.  But perhaps the best reason to operate an outdoor industry company here is the ease in developing and testing product. For example, you can finalize a new ski product, go skiing in the morning, have lunch with your local government official, then check out the manufacturing/ distribution facility to ensure your product is shipping on time that afternoon and return to the office to finish up the day.  Many a Utah CEO, marketing executive or product manager follow this pattern, whether it be ski, hike, climb or cycle.

Over the past several years Utah has attracted some highly visible and well known outdoor companies.  Amer Sports (whose brands include Atomic, Solomon, and Suunto) moved their North American headquarters into downtown Ogden.  Rossignol Ski Company resides in Park City with a distribution center in Ogden. Quality Bicycle Products has built their new western distribution center in Ogden.  Smaller, but not less important, companies have moved to Utah.  A few of many are Goode ski and Hart ski to Ogden and Ortovox to Salt Lake City.

Other companies that have expanded their presence in Utah, like Specialized Bicycle with a new distribution center.  Black Diamond Equipment expanded and brought Gregory Mountain Products to the Wasatch Front.  ENVE Composite Wheels has expanded is production facility in Ogden and Voile Ski Equipment has doubled their production area.  And there are several other companies that have expansion plans in the works.

In addition, there are some "foundation" Utah outdoor companies.  Specialized Bicycle, Black Diamond, Petzl, and Liberty Sports come to mind.  Chums, manufacturer of eyewear retainers and accessories, was started in an old building in the small rural town of Hurricane in Southern Utah near Zion National Park.  Voile ski and binding company began operations in the back bedroom of an old home in the Marmalade District of Salt Lake and now manufactures skis, split snow boards, telemark bindings and avalanche shovels in an expanded facility in West Valley City.  Lone Peak Designs has been making bike panniers and ski patrol packs for over 25 years in Salt Lake City. Scott Sports Optics, in northern Utah had been a part of the state for years.  In Orem, Lizard Skins has been making their famous neoprene mountain bike frame protectors since the early days of the sport.  Why not?  Utah lays claim to being "The mountain bike capitol of the country!"

Every year brings several new entrepreneurial based start-up companies to Utah - new ski and snowboard companies Bluehouse and DPS, clothing companies like Klymit, bike accessories companies like Reynold composite wheels and Ibert, maker of child bike seats.  Innovation is rampant and welcome in Utah.

The Outdoor Retailer (OR) Summer and Winter Markets convene in Salt Lake City every August and January.  OR Markets and the outdoor industry in Utah are intertwined.   These industry expos bring as many as 22,000 people to Utah twice yearly for each show.  The attendees are active outdoor enthusiasts who spend time throughout the state hiking, biking, climbing, boating, fishing, river running and skiing.  They look forward to returning to work and play. Utah's outdoor community welcomes delegates, retailers and exhibitors to come here and to stay and enjoy the great natural resources of the state.  Several outdoor businesses have relocated or started operations in Utah because of the presence of the Outdoor Retailer Shows.  After visiting the state and enjoying the myriad of outdoor opportunities they have returned to live here.  Another economic impact of the OR Markets are spin-offs like vendor sales meetings, buyer group shows and regional rep shows that are invariably planned around Outdoor Retailer conventions.  Many are held at or near outdoor recreation facilities and venues.

When you get out your equipment for that next adventure, hopefully in Utah, think about two things - one, was your outdoor gear produced or shipped from Utah and two, is that person up ahead of you on the trail, slope, waterway or canyon testing a new product that will be made or shipped from Utah.    You could be living the great outdoor life here and your products and company could be enjoying the benefits of business friendly Utah.

Riley Cutler is the Director of Outdoor Industry Cluster, State of Utah Governor's Office of Economic Development (GOED). He is also a long-time partner of a leading Salt Lake City outdoor retail store, Wasatch Touring.  For additional information or relocation packets, contact Riley at [email protected]


Outdoor Gear, SLC