Business Elevated Podcast (Episode 16)
This podcast series features business and government leaders discussing what it’s like to live and work in the great state of Utah. This episode includes a conversation between Tom Adams, director for Utah’s Office of Outdoor Recreation, Dustin Cederholm, executive director for the Utah Outdoor Association, Alex Adema, president and CEO of DPS Skis, as well as the chairman of the Utah Outdoor Association and Brandon Stoddard, director of the Hall Global Entrepreneurship Center, Weber State University, as well as the CEO of venturecapital.org.
Welcome to the Business Elevated Podcast, where we discuss what it’s like to live and work in the great state of Utah. Did you know Utah is frequently ranked the best state for business by Forbes? This podcast is a production of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Thanks for joining the conversation.
Tom Adams (0:19): Hello everybody, and welcome to the Business Elevated Podcast. My name is Tom Adams. I’m the director for Utah’s Office of Outdoor Recreation. I’ll be your host today.
For those of you that don’t know what an Office of Outdoor Recreation is, well, it’s a trend that’s spreading throughout the country. Utah, we were the first ones to create an Office of Outdoor Recreation. This year, at the upcoming Utah Outdoor Recreation Summit, which we’ll talk about a little bit more here, we will be celebrating the expansion of these offices to not one, two, or three other states, but to 17 other states around the nation. They’ll all be gathered here in Utah.
And for those of you that are still wondering now like, “Okay, 17 states have done this. What do these offices do?” Well, here in Utah, we’re responsible to do four things. One, influence policy around outdoor recreation. Two, to build recreation infrastructure all over the state. We’ve helped to implement $78 million of infrastructure in the last four years. Three, we’re here to inspire you. We’re here to inspire Utahns, especially youth on the health benefits of outdoor recreation. And last, but not least, and most importantly, in today’s conversation, we are here to support the recruitment and retention of outdoor industry businesses. And today, with us, we have three wonderful guests that fall right into this category, and I’ll let them do their own introductions.
Dustin Cederholm (1:33): My name is Dustin Cederholm. I’m the executive director for the Utah Outdoor Association.
Alex Adema (1:40): I am Alex Adema. I’m the president and CEO of DPS Skis, as well as the chairman of the Utah Outdoor Association.
Brandon Stoddard (1:47): I’m Brandon Stoddard, director of the Hall Global Entrepreneurship Center, Weber State University, as well as the CEO of venturecapital.org.
Dustin Cederholm (1:56): So, we’re very happy to be here with Tom and the Office of Outdoor Recreation. We wanted to talk a little bit about who we are, and so I’ll start just telling you a little bit more of the background of the Utah Outdoor Association–as it might be the first time some of you are hearing about us or maybe some of you are familiar and even participating with us. But, just to give you a brief background, the Utah Outdoor Association came to be when we started to hear conversations all through the industry saying that they really wanted an industry association for, and by, the industry where we could come to the table and discuss some of the different issues we have, as well as build the business economy within the state. As that evolved, we got to work with Tom, also worked with EDC Utah, and then worked really closely with all the business leaders within the state to figure out what is it that UOA should be, It doesn’t make it just another industry association. You hear a lot like, “We don’t want to join just another association.” And so, we worked very closely with, again, Office of Outdoor Recreation, as well as EDC Utah and the business leaders to figure out exactly what our place in that was.
And with that, we came to three different core initiatives. Those initiatives are shared purchasing. So, like many organizations, associations at least, we offer shared purchasing to help out.
We also offer shared learning, and that’s one of the really exciting things that we’re doing. One example I give is, the other day about 20 CEOs within the state got together to discuss tariffs. We all know that tariffs are happening, and so we don’t need to have a high-level conversation. What we need to do is get people together to find solutions. And so, it was more of a round table, and I believe it was a very productive conversation. And that’s something we think is very unique to our offering of getting people who are invested in their companies, they are executive level within their company, and they are working to solve these problems. And so, we do that through shared learning. We also do it through other learning programs, but that’s probably one of the more critical ones for at least our members.
And then the last is workforce development. So, we’re working a lot with the universities to develop a curriculum as well as different programming so that we can be, first, putting out students who are more qualified to go into the high-level companies that we have here in the state. But secondly, that we’re keeping them in this state by working with the brands to make sure they’re investing in the universities as well as retaining our own talent and really helping it develop within the state. So, that’s a little bit of the background of UOA and what we’re currently doing. We are an independent association, and that’s one of the critical components to what we’re doing. We are not beholden to anybody’s agenda but our own industries, and that’s why we want everybody to come together. And with that, we have here today, Alex, who is the chairman of UOA, but representing the industry and someone who can talk to why a company like DPS might want to be involved with this as well as the Summit.
Alex Adema (5:06): Yeah. So, for DPS Skis, in particular, there are many challenges that we face that aren’t necessarily unique to the outdoor industry or a snow sports industry company. But, at the same time, many are unique to our industry and to our culture. So, to be connected with an ecosystem of outdoor businesses that are struggling with similar types of things as far as recruiting talent, shared marketing opportunities, shared learning, all that kind of stuff. It’s a unique opportunity for us to hear from our peers to learn from and maybe even contribute with our peers and network in that way, as well.
When we moved from Colorado about 10 years ago to, actually, to Ogden originally, now to Salt Lake City, to open our manufacturing here. There was a lot to learn, and there’s the paradigm of, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” And so, being involved with something like the Utah Outdoor Association or Office of Outdoor Recreation are opportunities for us to uncover things that we haven’t thought about yet. Maybe look at a different way, contribute something to others in the ecosystem, as well. So, that’s been really a valuable thing for us to be associated with both of these groups, Office of Outdoor Recreation and Utah Outdoor Association.
Dustin Cederholm (6:13): Yeah, I think I meant to touch on it there, Alex, but maybe you can, why would DPS want to be involved in the Utah Outdoor Recreation Summit?
Alex Adema (6:20): Yeah. So, the Outdoor Recreation Summit, has been really helpful for us, again, because there’s multiple different tracks happening there, and many of the issues aren’t related specifically to industry or manufacturing types of challenges that we have. But, again, they’re very relevant to our culture, to our customer base, to our employee base and into the state that we live in. So, we really want to be a part of helping to cultivate the outdoor industry ecosystem here in Utah. But, also there’s many different types of learning opportunities and there’s a specific business track that we will participate in. There are other conversations that are going on in that forum that, again, allow us to learn the things that we don’t know we don’t know. So, it’s really valuable for us to just be exposed to the different conversations that are going on.
Dustin Cederholm (7:08): And I know you’ve been involved with UOA’s workforce development, but also had a unique story within DPS. Can you talk a little bit about how DPS has worked with the university structure to bring people on board?
Alex Adema (7:25): Yeah. So, for us, it’s been organic, but a few different streams have really benefited us greatly to have the talent that we do have in the region. So, it’s played itself out in multiple ways. With the local business school, we were able to bring in interns that were going through the MBA programs that could come in and work on the business side of things. We’ve also worked, from our ski development perspective, we work closely with mechanical engineers who can provide mentorship to students who are actually working at DPS and, on a long-term basis, become full-time employees for us, as well. And we also have another product line called Phantom, which is a permanent base glide. It’s a disruptive product that’s unseating the traditional ski wax industry. And again, to be able to tap into local talent and work with chemistry PhDs coming out of university and students that, now again, have interned with us and become full-time employees, allow us to cultivate some talent internally. Frankly, we wouldn’t have been able to just post for, especially without the mentorship that comes with some of those programs. So, it’s been really valuable to us.
Dustin Cederholm (8:31): And that’s one of the exciting things, at least, for me as the executive director to be at the Summit is, there’s people from all different schools, and it’s not necessarily just the Parks Recreation Tourism program that we’re looking for. As you mentioned, chemical engineering, the business school, marketing and legal. I mean, we run businesses, and therefore, we need employees from all skill sets. And when I’ve been to the summit, I’ve noticed a lot of that. But, I’m also very excited to make more connections within the education sector. So, if you guys are there, please know we do have a free student program at UOA. I know there’s going to be a lot of student volunteers out there and maybe you’re listening to this, but there’s ways to get involved after this. And that’s one of the major reasons that we know the Summit really brings a lot of different people together, and that’s a just reason. I think we should all be getting there. Alex, you talked a little bit about the workforce stuff. Maybe Brandon, you can talk about what you’re doing in a similar field.
Brandon Stoddard (9:31): Yeah. So, we’re trying to innovate as well as better prepare students for the workforce. Whether it’s starting their own business in the outdoor recreation industry or working for someone else. How do you innovate? How do you find new solutions? Much like you’re doing with your company, Alex.
Cass Morgan, who’s over Outdoor Recreation Education program has done a phenomenal job in launching our own program. I mean, we lie in the heart of outdoor recreation, so it’s amazing to see the progress our students are making, how she’s better preparing our students.
Two years ago, Cass and I came together to create Outdoor Weber, which is an outdoor recreation themed business pitch competition that we have opened up to any student across the world. So, we’re hoping that as these students work with mentors, as they refine their ideas and learn what really works and what doesn’t work. Can we teach them? Can we help them learn by experience on how to actually make a difference? Where Ogden is making some strides over the last number of years in outdoor recreation, we felt this was a perfect opportunity to come together to make a difference and really prepare our students to enter the workforce. I really think that’s what our responsibility is. How do we teach and help them get the experience?
And so, we’ve had this phenomenal opportunity to launch and grow this Outdoor Weber competition, phenomenal feedback. I think it’s a great fit for everything the state is doing, everything you’re doing, Dustin.
And so far, it’s been, I think, a great partnership, as we’ve gotten to work together a bit. Additionally, the news is just coming out that Weber State just knocked down the old outdoor recreation facility, and is building a brand new facility will better help our students really understand what it takes to get out there and be successful.
Dustin Cederholm (11:19): I think what you’re talking about fits the theme of this, which is preserving our past and forging our future, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be a judge for Outdoor Weber. And I mean, just watching with those kids for doing, I mean they’re not kids, they’re young adults, obviously, but they are just doing the coolest thing. And all I can think about is, if we just offer a question to people, how many different solutions can they come up with? And that’s really what you’re showing is happening. And then, how meaningful and actionable can that be? Where these products are, I mean, it’s coming from all over the world, is that right?
Brandon Stoddard (11:56): Oh, yeah. Yeah. I mean, we watch each year where are people coming to our website from? And literally, it’s all over the world. We talked about bringing the past into this, and we’re using the experience of those who’ve actually gone this route, sharing their experience, mentoring these students who are our future. Bringing that together is really a key tool we’re trying to build.
Dustin Cederholm (12:17): Yeah. And I know that the Summit is going to be bringing all of the Office of Outdoor Recreation directors, I believe, are coming to the state. I think we’re, what UOA is trying to do, is trying to pull more people into the state and create this infrastructure that is unique to us. And so, I think between all of our efforts, it really is, how do we forge a better future for Utah as well as the outdoor industry? And, I also just feel like Utah’s leading in that. I mean, the first Office of Recreation started here, and now UOA’s one of the first associations with our motto. What you’re doing as one of the first, and I know of many others throughout the schools and different areas, as well. Do you have anything else that you want to add on the Weber side of things or what you’re doing, maybe, with the startup economy?
Brandon Stoddard (13:06): Yeah. I think this all works because of the collaborative nature, whether it’s universities, private health companies, organizations, NGOs, we all have to work together to make this go further. We can’t do it alone. So, I think, just the fact that we’re all working together, we’re all collaborating, we’re all innovating, we’re teaching students and getting them involved on how to innovate within this field. I really think that’s the key moving forward.
Dustin Cederholm (13:30): I agree. Just quickly to give people some information about UOA’s specific role within the Summit is. We will be having a booth there, so please come stop by. Say, “Hi,” to us, meet us, sign up for whatever you want, whether it’s to be a volunteer. We’re a nonprofit, and so we do run on volunteer love. Also, though, you can join the association, so for all the brands out there, come check us out. Schools come check us out, municipalities, whoever you are, come learn about what we’re doing and how we’re trying to help economic development within the state.
Additionally, we will be having, during a lunch, we will have tables where there will be different topics that you can come and join a topic. Whether it be marketing or supply chain, funding, whatever you’re trying to do with your company, there should be a table with a placard on it. Sit down, meet other people who are going through the same challenges you are, and have the opportunity to solve them together.
And so, that’s a little bit about what we’re actively doing there. But really, we’re going there to learn. There’s so many great tracks. We’re really excited for the Bureau of Economic Analysis to be putting out the numbers, they’re going to be reporting about what our industry is. I know that’s really important to my association, and to all of us, as well as some of the different educational programs that will be going for the three different tracks that are there. So, if you’re out there and you’re wanting to go, make sure you get there, and come meet the Utah Outdoor Association and myself. Alex, are you going to be there?
Alex Adema (15:01): I’ll be there. Yeah, I’m looking forward to it. And again, just the opportunity to learn from so many people. Everybody that’s represented at the Outdoor Recreation Summit really comes from a passion base, no matter what they are. And these aren’t typically very lucrative fields that we’re in, but whether it’s lands management or recreation or outdoor product, these are passion-based focuses. And so, it’s fun to come together with people that are like-minded, even if they’re working in different streams, and see how we can all collaborate and make this ecosystem a better place for all of us to work and live and play. So, yeah, we’re excited to be there.
Dustin Cederholm (15:36): And Brandon, I don’t believe you are able to attend, but will Weber be on-hand at the summit? Do you know?
Brandon Stoddard (15:43): Absolutely. And I think this is a really important event that all of us get involved with.
Dustin Cederholm (15:48): I agree. We’re excited to be there.
Thanks for listening to the Business Elevated podcast, a production of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Listen to other episodes where you get your podcasts or at business.utah.gov.