Thursday, April 19, 2018
Business

Tampa Bay wins a Bass Pro Shops site but at what cost?

The Hillsborough County Commission thumbed its nose Wednesday at those low-wage job "elitists" and approved a controversial $6.25 million in public incentives that should assure the arrival of Bass Pro Shops' coveted Outdoor World store near Brandon.

The deal is expected to create up to 250 modest paying jobs.

But that's not what is driving this project. Bass Pro Shops claims to be the biggest tourist draw in its home state of Missouri. Bigger than the Gateway Arch in St. Louis or Mark Twain's home.

And Bass Pro Shops has long pitched itself to metro areas like Tampa Bay as a "destination retailer" — a store so hot in the minds of outdoorsy folks that they will travel long distances to wander aisles of camo clothing, fishing and hunting gear, boat supplies, guns and T-shirts.

Here's the catch.

Tampa Bay's coming late to the Bass Pro party. More than seven years ago I often trekked across Interstate 4 to Bass Pro Shops' store (called Outdoor World) in Orlando when my son was part of a local Boy Scout troop. I even dragged my wife there, who briefly enjoyed looking at the selection of women's clothing.

Now Florida is filling up with Bass Pro locations. Along with Orlando, Fort Myers, Miami, Islamorada in the Keys, Fort Lauderdale and Destin on the Panhandle already have one. The company has also announced plans to open additional Florida stores near Jacksonville, Palm Bay on the east coast and in Tallahassee.

With Brandon, that adds up to 10 Outdoor World stores just in Florida.

I'm a fan, even now, of Outdoor World. But let's be clear. The big buzz to shop Bass Pro Shops is fading. Sampling 12 kinds of "Uncle Buck's" brand of beef jerky goes only so far.

Still, Bass Pro Shops still falls into that exclusive mix of "must have" retailers fancied by many a proud metro area. They range from the Apple Store, H&M and Ikea to The Container Store, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's.

What's it worth to attract them?

In Brandon, Outdoor World will be located in Estuary, a new retail complex across Interstate 75 from the Westfield Brandon mall. It is expected to open next year with the remaining complex slated for a 2017 debut.

That's a key detail. Luring Bass Pro Shops with $6.25 million in road improvements means Estuary gains a powerful anchor tenant that should help fill the rest of the new complex.

Nearly ever Bass Pro Shops location seems to stir up controversy over how much in local incentives are used to attract a new store.

In 2010, a study called "Fishing for Taxpayer's Cash" by the nonprofit research group Public Accountability Initiative found that Bass Pro-anchored projects had won more than $500 million in taxpayer subsidies.

In struggling Buffalo, N.Y., the city spent nine years and waived tens of millions of dollars trying to win a Bass Pro Shops commitment only to be spurned by the chain in 2010.

It must be nice to be a retailer that gets so much public money thrown their way just to set up shop in a town.

Local stores that must now compete with another tax-subsidized behemoth are no doubt less than thrilled and surely less likely to expand.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
St. Petersburg police remove disabled adults from ‘deplorable’ assisted living facilities

St. Petersburg police remove disabled adults from ‘deplorable’ assisted living facilities

ST. PETERSBURG — Beef jerky, mayonnaise and Altoids mints were the only edible things in view inside one of the houses. There was no running water. The refrigerator was empty. A bed sat on top of the deteriorating living room floor. Cigarette butts b...
Updated: 18 minutes ago
The St. Pete Pier takes another step forward

The St. Pete Pier takes another step forward

ST. PETERSBURG — Development of the city’s long-awaited pier advanced another step Thursday.The City Council approved a $15 million construction contract and additional money to design a waterside restaurant, build a playground and ferret out naming ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Free rides on PSTA and HART buses to celebrate Earth Day

Free rides on PSTA and HART buses to celebrate Earth Day

Those who use mass transit across the Tampa Bay area can ride for free on Sunday.To celebrate Earth Day, both the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) and the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) will be offering free rides on Su...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Here’s your first look at what will be Riverwalk Place, Tampa’s tallest tower

Here’s your first look at what will be Riverwalk Place, Tampa’s tallest tower

TAMPA — Developers on Thursday detailed plans for what they touted as the tallest building on Florida’s west coast, with condominiums priced in six and seven figures and a shimmering glass design they say would stand out in the skylines of New York, ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Wells Fargo said to be target of $1 billion fine

Wells Fargo said to be target of $1 billion fine

Federal regulators are poised to impose a $1 billion penalty on Wells Fargo for a number of alleged misdeeds, including forcing customers to buy auto insurance policies that they didn’t need, according to people briefed on the regulatory action. The ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Marriott Edition to bring five-star hotel ambitions to Water Street Tampa

Marriott Edition to bring five-star hotel ambitions to Water Street Tampa

TAMPA — At the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City, hotelier Ian Schrager transformed a Jazz Age building with its own rich history into a destination offering even more heady experiences — extravagant, edgy and bohemian.In Tampa, Schrager will have...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Tech Data names Rich Hume to take over as CEO

Tech Data names Rich Hume to take over as CEO

CLEARWATER — A longtime IBM executive is becoming the new leader of Tampa Bay’s largest public company. Tech Data on Thursday named Richard "Rich" Hume as its new CEO effective June 6. Hume joined Tech Data two years ago and is currently the chief op...
Updated: 8 hours ago
LA Fitness tones up Hillsborough location

LA Fitness tones up Hillsborough location

When LA Fitness on West Hillsborough Ave. reopens mid-summer, it will have undergone a $5 million renovation and a complete transformation. Closed since November 2017, the 10-year-old facility was completely torn down and is still undergoing construc...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Kids have fun and gain coding skills at Code Ninja in Westchase

Kids have fun and gain coding skills at Code Ninja in Westchase

A new program that teaches coding to kids is coming to the Tampa Bay area. Code Ninjas is a Houston-based franchise that is opening its first location in Westchase in early May. There are plans for other centers in Carrollwood, South Tampa, New Tampa...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Graze all day at Armature Works

Graze all day at Armature Works

TAMPA HEIGHTS— Graze 1910 upholds the comfortable and relaxing, yet elegant setting of Armature Works with its "comfort food" offerings and dedication to serving breakfast all day."It’s the way I eat. I graze all day," said owner Raymond "Ray" Menend...
Updated: 11 hours ago