European trade mission explores Ogden as potential outdoor business 'base camp'

Wednesday , September 20, 2017 - 5:15 AM3 comments

LEIA LARSEN, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — Ogden City has connected with more international partners in its drive to become a hub for the outdoor industry.

Members of the EU4Sports Clusters Alliance Trade Mission spent several days in Junction City, meeting with its business leaders, sampling local trails and exploring whether Ogden could be a good jumping-off point to plunge into a United States market. 

On Tuesday, trade mission representatives signed a “charter of cooperation” with Mayor Mike Caldwell, signaling their interest in putting down future roots in the city.

EU4Sports represents several outdoor groups and brands in Spain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. The companies range from start-ups to mid-sized businesses, making everything from climbing crash pads to 360 cameras and sit skis to smartphone apps.

“We need a base camp, and Ogden is a good one,” said Jean-Philippe Montfort with Cluster Montagne, a group representing numerous French companies. 

Company representatives said they chose Ogden over other locales like Los Angeles and New York because of the city’s outdoor assets and because of the responsiveness from Ogden city officials.

Edward Vlutters with Ridley-Merckx, a Belgium-based bicycle company, said he currently has sales channels in the United Sates. The company is looking to expand and Vlutters said he’s impressed with what Ogden has to offer.

“Definitely I can see that Utah and Ogden are the perfect environment,” Vlutters said. “I went for a run this morning, early, by the river. I saw the restoration that’s happening at the river, it (has) amazing facilities.”

Ogden currently has 40 outdoor-type brands around the immediate downtown area, Caldwell said, making the city a good base for other brands trying to venture into the American market.

“There’s an ecosystem of support in this industry here,” Caldwell said. “You won’t be on an island here, you can find help and support in a lot of ways ... and that ecosystem is really important to us, that’s something we’ve been working very hard on.”

Ideally, the relationship will run both ways — the relationships forged in Ogden could open a bigger market to local brands, too. But the trade mission and charter don’t mean they’ve made any concrete plans.

“A few months ago, a few weeks ago, we got to know each other ... then we got to like each other,” said Werner Couck, spokesman for the EU4Sports, about Ogden. “This is actually an engagement party.”

In other words, the companies have connected with Ogden, but they’ll need to do additional follow-up and formalize their business relationship. 

Still, Caldwell said the city has been through friendly introductions before. A similar connection ultimately brought Amer Sports to town. The company’s United States headquarters are in Ogden. It includes several international outdoors brands, like Salomon and Suunto.

Last year, Amer Sports purchased ENVE Composites LLC, an Ogden-based cycling parts company, for $50 million

“We’ve got a got a good international sports background, when you look at the Olympics coming through, when you look at the Tour of Utah coming through,” Caldwell said. “We do have a lot of common ground we’ve built so we thought it was a great opportunity to bring people in and get to know each other better and for our business development department to help answer questions and talk about what it might take to open U.S. distribution channels.” 

The trade mission and cooperation charter comes at a time when trade relationships with Europe are tense. The Trump administration has pushed an “American first” agenda, threatened to pull out of trade agreements and alienated several European allies.

“I think President (Donald) Trump is not doing America any great favors ... but we keep hoping the nature of the people will correct that situation,” said Quinton Van Loggerenberg of Bioracer, a cycle clothing company from Belgium. “Everybody we’ve met here has been absolutely fantastic, they have been uniformly welcoming.”

When it comes to the business of outdoor sports, there’s plenty of ways to unite, Van Loggerenberg added.

“It’s a very tribal industry, we’re a tribe of people who like playing outdoors,” he said. “I think we’re much more alike than we are different.” 

Participant companies in the trade mission are listed below.

Company Product Category Country
Bioracer Sport clothing Bike Belgium
Click & Bike E-bikes Bike Belgium
Ridley-Merckx Bicycles Bike Belgium
Alpim & Co. Bike carriers for ski lifts Bike/ski France
MILF Sunglasses Sunglasses Other France
Outdoor Organic Nutrition SAS Baouw nutrition bars Other France
Snap Climbing Rock climbing equipment Climbing France
Snooc Sit ski Ski France
Sopeg 360-cameras and drones Tech France
GP smart stadium Interactive technology for stadiums Tech Netherlands
Inuteq Personal cooling products Tech Netherlands
MAT Group Safety services Tech Spain
Patronat de Turisme Costa Brava Girona Tourism Other Spain
Skitude Ski resort smartphone app Tech Spain

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