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Stop the hate: Give Bass Pro Shops a chance

Reading the comments posted at the bottom of articles on the Tampa Bay Times website, tampabay.com, often proves a maddening exercise.

It appears that commenters aim to incite anger regardless of the subject. I'll never forget when someone ripped my 106-year-old grandmother, who did nothing more than publish her memoirs.

Some people in the industry refer to Web posters as haters because the majority seemingly always see the glass as half-empty.

Actually, the majority see the glass as empty, and sometimes try to shatter it into shards with their harsh words.

Yet the comments posted to an article published earlier this week about Hillsborough County's attempts to lure a Bass Pro Shops store to the Brandon area rang with a degree of validity.

The county government has invested more than 18 months in trying to persuade the mega fishing and outdoors store to come to Hillsborough. It has offered $15 million in incentives. Bass officials have a reputation as tough negotiators who pit communities against each other.

Amazingly, the county offer may not be enough.

Naturally, some of the posters decried the offer as corporate welfare. Others criticized the effort because of how it potentially could impact locally owned businesses.

Both arguments struck a chord as reasonable, but I'm not in agreement.

In competing with other communities, government leaders must be willing to offer some type of bait to hook the big fish. Bringing jobs to the community, especially in this economy, requires a degree of risk taking.

At some point, it's prudent to ask how much is too much. The $15 million price tag seems steep even if the outlet promises 369 permanent, full-time jobs and initial sales of $61.8 million. I certainly wouldn't advocate more.

Keep in mind, however, that this isn't just any store. I don't hunt or fish and each time I've gone to Bass Pro Shops, I've left in awe. With store sizes ranging from 100,000 to 400,000 square feet, shoppers can get lost for hours.

Full disclosure: I live in the Brandon area so I'm particularly excited about the proposed location on Falkenburg Road and the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway. I easily envision the location drawing visitors from outside of the county to not only spend money on fishing rods and camping gear but also to drop dollars at nearby restaurants.

Supporting the idea may seem to go against my support of local independents, but I see Bass competing more with the other chains in the Brandon area — Dick's Sporting Goods, Sports Authority and Walmart — than the so-called "mom-and-pop" fishing and boating shops. Those places should be able to withstand the competition thanks to loyal customers and personal appeal.

Another Web poster suggested the money might be better spent offering incentives to those long-time small businesses. Perhaps. Those places also deserve support, but some small businesses will reap benefits from the ripple effect of Bass Pro Shops.

If Bass agrees to the terms being offered by the county, the full commission would have to approve any kind of incentive-laden package. I welcome full debate, and perhaps I could be convinced this is the wrong move as we learn more details and the proponents and opponents crunch more numbers.

For now, however, it's a bold step laced with more positives than negatives.

To me, the glass is half-full.

That's all I'm saying.

Stop the hate: Give Bass Pro Shops a chance 03/15/12 [Last modified: Thursday, March 15, 2012 4:30am]
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