Here at Envoy we have a strong connection to, and a passion for, the outdoors. Many of our footwear, apparel, and accessory clients are major players in the outdoor industry whose products are used worldwide, every day. Our team also has a deep appreciation for nature and outdoor adventures, and we spend much of our free time exploring Michigan’s state parks and the Great Lakes.
Michigan is well-known as a leading outdoor recreation state, and now, we have an incredible opportunity to take our state to the next level. Recently, Outdoor Retailer (OR), the outdoor industry’s largest trade show, announced it is searching for a new location for its annual trade shows. As a result of Utah’s recent decision to reduce protection of public lands and rescind the national monument designation for Bear Ears, a major Native American site in Utah, the state is seeing significant repercussions. Many states are now throwing their hat in the ring to serve as the next Outdoor Retailer host, including Oregon, Montana, Colorado and New Mexico.
There’s simply no reason Michigan shouldn’t compete for this premier event. Michigan is too often overlooked as a destination for outdoor recreation. What many don’t realize, however, is that we’re one of the top states in the U.S. that invests in the outdoors. According to Outdoor Industry Association research, Michigan outdoor enthusiasts spend more money on outdoor recreation than other states who are looking to host this event. Additionally, the Outdoor Industry Association’s 2016 annual report noted that Michigan and its Great Lakes neighbors account for more outdoor activity participants than many other regions, including the Mountain West.
Here are four reasons why we believe West Michigan should be the next location for Outdoor Retailer:
1. Michigan is rich in outdoor recreation opportunities.
From our Great Lakes to the Upper Peninsula to our state and national parks, Michigan is home to many amazing outdoor experiences.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has been recognized by Good Morning America as the “Most Beautiful Place in America,” boasting 64 miles of beaches, two islands, 26 inland lakes and more than 50,000 acres of land. Lonely Planet also ranked Grand Rapids and the Lake Michigan Gold Coast as the #1 travel destination in 2014 and The New York Times recognized Grand Rapids as one of the top 52 destinations to visit in 2016.
Our diverse outdoor recreation opportunities offer something for everyone. Visitors from all over the United States travel to Michigan all year long to hunt, ski, bike, camp and fish, as well as explore our beautiful, world class beaches and urban, state and national parks. At OR in Salt Lake City, the summer open air demo is a one hour trip to the artificial beach at Cemetery Point Marina “Pine Reservoir.” Here in the Great Lakes State, Lake Michigan is only 40 minutes away and Grand Haven has one of the most beautiful, natural, freshwater beaches in the world. And after a full day of enjoying Michigan’s beauty and splendor, visitors can explore 40+ breweries along our Beer City Ale Trail.
2. We have a strong history of protecting public lands.
Michigan has a long history of protecting public lands. Michigan voters have consistently stepped up over the years to protect the State’s Natural Resources Trust Fund and ensure our lands are protected for generations to come. We love our state and will keep fighting to protect our water and land.
Locally, West Michigan residents have invested millions of public and private dollars into our city’s natural areas, cultural institutions and recreational amenities. In 2016, neighboring Ottawa County passed their parks millage by a wide margin to protect open space, build trails and improve parks.
In a recent statement, OR Show Director Marisa Nicholson said, “We have a unique, maybe even singular, opportunity to coalesce, organize, speak and lay plans to make a difference around public land awareness in such a way that it is not only heard but that it can make a positive difference.”
Here in Grand Rapids, our community is working tirelessly to restore the Grand River namesake rapids running through the heart of downtown and activate the river so it can be enjoyed by outdoor enthusiasts, families and children from across the region. The Grand Rapids river restoration project could be that singular opportunity for OR to make a positive difference on land and water preservation and it flows right next to our convention center.
3. West Michigan is committed to sustainability.
West Michigan is home to some of the most sustainable local companies in the country that are making a positive difference in our community. In fact, 14 of 17 Michigan B Corps are located right here in Grand Rapids. Our business community truly cares about our people and our environment, and it shows through their commitment to sustainability, diversity and inclusion.
4. Outdoor Retailer will bring abundant economic opportunities to West Michigan.
Outdoor Retailer generates more than $45 million in economic impact in Salt Lake City each year and attracts more than 1,000 national and international outdoor retailers. Imagine if we brought a trade show like Outdoor Retailer or Interbike, the largest industry bike show, to West Michigan. This would bolster our strong track record as a premier show and convention host city, provide a massive economic boost, and spark new opportunities into the future.
Bringing Outdoor Retailer to West Michigan is an opportunity to bring the entire outdoor industry together here in Grand Rapids, rally around our river restoration project and invigorate our economy. With the upcoming potential provided by a possible expansion to our convention and hotel space, this is a great opportunity to come together, think creatively, and get it done.