Thursday, January 18, 2018
Business

County didn't have to lure Bass Pro Shops with millions in incentives

I drove to South Florida last week and passed two Bass Pro Shops, one near Fort Myers and one outside Fort Lauderdale.

I wasn't planning to go to either one, but they got me riled up all over again about the fact that we're spending $6.25 million in taxpayer funds to bring a Bass Pro to Brandon.

County leaders justified the expense by saying the store would attract new businesses and tourists to the area. But when you have six stores already in Florida and four more on the way, you have to wonder how big an impact it will make. It's not a theme park. It's a store. A cool one, granted, but still a store.

I have little doubt the Brandon Bass Pro will be a hit, particularly among locals. The fish tanks, taxidermied animal displays and sheer vastness of it are pretty amazing. Outside of The Hunger Games, there probably isn't a bigger selection of camouflage and hunting gear.

Still, tourists from Orlando are unlikely to stop by because they already have a store there. Clearwater? Perhaps. Sarasota? Doubtful.

And if out-of-towners do come in, will they buy an expensive boat?

I defer to my friends from Michigan. A few years ago when they were vacationing in Estero, the dad decided to take his son, then 8, to a free fishing event at the Bass Pro in nearby Fort Myers. Kids got to catch and release fish in the huge pond outside the store. Pretty fun.

When they came back I asked, "What did you catch?"

Nothing, they said.

"What did you buy?"

Nothing.

I'm no accountant, but that's hardly a ringing endorsement for plunking down millions in government subsidies to lure a store.

It's time to take stock of your green clothing because St. Patrick's Day is Sunday.

If you're like me, you have nothing but that cheap green tank top from Target you tossed into the bag for Salvation Army after one wear. It just didn't work.

Every year, I vow to add a few green pieces to my wardrobe to avoid a last-minute desperation trip to the store. Every year a few days before St. Patrick's Day, I stare into a closet of every other color but green. And I'm a little bit Irish.

So I wasn't surprised to see a stat from the National Retail Federation that said the average adult will spend $35.19 on green attire as well as on decorations, food and drinks. (I actually expected it to be higher until I considered a green T-shirt and pint of Guinness is all it takes for most men.)

Overall, the retail group estimates Americans will spend $4.7 billion getting their blarney on. That's modest compared to other holidays (Valentine's Day was $17.6 billion) but still significant for a nongift-giving day.

Retailers may have the luck of the calendar on their side. Because St. Patrick's Day falls just two weeks before Easter, many stores have combined their shamrock with cute chick stuff in the hopes of enticing shoppers to buy both.

The survey conducted by BIGinsight also found that young adults ages 18 to 24 are the most inclined to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, but that people 35 to 44 planned to spend the most. No surprise there. Twentysomethings like to party the most and, sadly for them, usually have the least to spend.

You've probably seen the girls camped out in front of grocery stores, all cute and puppy-eyed and determined to make a sale. Girl Scout cookie season is here.

To celebrate the timeless treats, the Girl Scouts has teamed up with several area restaurants to serve cookie-inspired desserts during Girl Scout Week, which runs through Sunday.

Here's a sampling: Savannah Smiles Strawberry Shortcake at Firestick Grill in the Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tagalong Banana Trifle at Marchand's Bar & Grill at the Vinoy Renaissance Resort in St. Petersburg and Deep Fried Tagalongs at Datz in Tampa.

Other participating restaurants include Caretta on the Gulf at the Sandpearl Resort in Clearwater, Mise en Place in Tampa and Splitsville and TinaTapa's at Channelside Bay Plaza.

Susan Thurston can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 225-3110.

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