When doTerra’s global convention ended last week, there were 1,600 leftover meals, custom stages to break down and specially installed carpet to tear out.
That all could have gone from the Salt Palace Convention Center to the trash.
Instead, the stages were disassembled and distributed to public schools. The carpet was donated to Habitat for Humanity, destined for new and refurbished homes for needy people. The surplus meals were taken to Catholic Community Services to feed the hungry.
The groups that unite to bring conventions to the Salt Lake Valley and make them a success hope their new environment-friendly approach will help attract new visitors after the loss of twice yearly Outdoor Retailer trade shows.
SMG, which operates Salt Lake County’s convention facilities, led the work to earn certificates of sustainability from the Events Industry Council — seen as a valuable endorsement that can help entice “green” companies to hold their annual meetings in Salt Lake County.
“It’s way easier to throw things into the dumpster, but that’s not the right thing to do,” said Dan Hayes, general manager of SMG. “We chose this goal as it would have the most impact on changing our everyday processes. It’s no longer enough to say ‘we’re green’ and offer recycling bins.”
The other groups earning certificates were Utah Food Services, which provides catering services at both the Salt Palace and SouthTowne Exposition Center; Visit Salt Lake, which brings meetings to the county; and PSAV, the company that provides audio visual services to conventions.
Their efforts “will make a positive environmental difference,” Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said Tuesday at a news conference on the corner of the Salt Palace, the sound of jackhammers pounding the background as construction crews prepared the foundation for a new hotel across 200 South from the convention center.
“Since that’s the sound of a new hotel going up I’m not going to apologize for the noise,” said Visit Salt Lake President and CEO Scott Beck. “The convention and meeting industry is alive and well.”
That report of good health has been questioned since the company that puts on the twice yearly Outdoor Retailer trade shows decided to move the winter and summer markets — and their $45 million annual contribution to the county’s economy — to protest the state’s opposition to the designation of Bears Ears National Monument and its approach to public-lands policies.
“It always hurts to lose a big convention,” McAdams said. “But let’s put it in perspective. It’s not the only show here. It’s not even the largest show.”
That honor belongs to Pleasant Grove-based doTerra, whose attendance exceeded the turnout for the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market by several thousand. It has been the largest convention in Salt Lake County for three years running
“The distinction of being the largest citywide convention is significant,” said Beck, noting that the 30,500 doTerra convention attendees booked 60,000 hotel rooms in Salt Lake County over the four days of meetings, contributing $29 million to the economy.
“And you could smell the lavender everywhere,” he joked, referring to the fragrance associated with many of the multilevel marketer‘s products, including its signature essential oils.
Kirk Jowers, doTerra’s vice president of corporate relations and European markets, praised the county’s convention managers for their flexibility this year in helping doTerra deal with its largest crowd ever without its usual ability to have some events in the Utah Jazz’s arena due to construction.
“We had 30,000 people coming to town and we didn’t have the Viv,” he said, citing a nickname for Vivint SmartHome Arena. “thanks to these great people, we were able to fit all 30,500 comfortably and very professionally into the Salt Palace.”
“As we see hotels go up, we’re excited that our show could grow to 40,000 or 45,000 in our home state,” Jowers added. “No place on Earth could hold this type of convention so successfully.”
McAdams said the departure of Outdoor Retailer has not diminished Salt Lake County’s interest in helping a private hotelier build a headquarters hotel near the Salt Palace. For the past 18 months, the county has been negotiating with St. George-based real-estate company DDRM to pick a location and build a 700 to 800-room hotel.
The county, Salt Lake City and the state each have pledged about $25 million in tax incentives to help a private developer build a hotel, expected to cost about $300 million overall.
“A convention center hotel was important for Outdoor Retailer,” McAdams said, “but we’re doing it for other conventions as well. We lost many conventions because we didn’t have one.”