S.L. has enough room for a convention, but not enough cabs? Hmm …

In a recent KSL article about the Outdoor Retailer show possibly relocating outside Salt Lake, the head of Visit Salt Lake said the following:

Salt Lake has enough hotel rooms and convention floor space, but Outdoor Retailer wants 900 taxicabs, which the city doesn’t have.

This quote is interesting on various levels. First, because both Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County have been considering helping build a convention center hotel specifically to attract or keep conventions just like this one. Several of the cities with convention hotels that would supposedly “steal” conventions because of Salt Lake’s lack of a convention hotel were also cited by the sponsors of the Outdoor Retailer show as having insufficient hotel space for the convention. 

This raises the obvious question: If Salt Lake has enough hotel space to compete with other cities for one of the biggest conventions (if not THE biggest) it would ever host, should we give any credibility to anyone saying we need to use taxpayer dollars to help with a privately owned convention hotel project?

Second, this quote is remarkable in light of the restrictive taxicab regulations that Salt Lake City enacted (and for which it was subsequently sued by taxi companies that lost out under the new rules). If Salt Lake City wants to promote economic activity, it could move toward a free market system of taxi regulations rather than the restrictive big-government system it has now.