Saturday, June 23, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: While luring Bass Pro Shops, don't forget the little fish

Of this much we can be pretty certain. It appears people who like to fish are just as certifiably obsessively nutso as golfers when it comes to constantly searching for the next piece of equipment that will unlock the mysteries of succeeding in their chosen waste of time.

So what might we call this? The Skakedown of the Ancient Mariner?

Ergo the proliferation of all manner of retailers offering the next big thing to take to the seas in the quest for the big one.

But in the elusive hunt for the catch of the day, it would seem the biggest winner could be Bass Pro Shops, which could be on the cusp of reeling in $15 million in publicly subsidized incentives to build one of its megachain stores in Hillsborough County.

Say, that's no small amount of chum.

If the deal comes off, Bass Pro Shops will construct a 475,000-square-foot complex just off of Interstate 75 across from the Westfield Brandon mall, thus providing yet one more reason to avoid Brandon's world famous gridlock on crack.

To be sure, this looks like a swell deal for Bass Pro Shops, which says it will create more than 1,500 temporary construction jobs and as many as 369 full-time jobs selling weird fishing stuff.

Very nice. But at what cost?

I'll confess to being naively ignorant of the ways of big business. But I don't grasp something, which I've been failing to grasp for many years, most notably when the big shots of Hillsborough County all agreed to give bazillionaire Tampa Bay Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer and his rug rats, Zippity and Do Da, a free taxpayer-funded football field, Hellooooo Sucker Stadium.

And it is simply this: Why are county officials contemplating forking over $15 million in public subsidies to a Fortune 500 company with annual revenues of nearly $4 billion to build an immensely profitable store that will pull in an estimated $61.8 million in sales once all those people in search of fake worms start rushing through the doors?

Yes, the jobs are peachy. We all want more jobs in Hillsborough County. But what about the lost jobs, the lost revenues, the lost small businesses of other angler-related companies that will now not only have to compete with Bass Pro Shops, but also lose out on government underwritten incentives to help their bottom line?

The economy is already tough enough without the ham-thumbed digit of government weighing down the scales against the little guy.

We hear all the time how the small business owner is the true backbone of the American economy. And it is — until Bass Pro Shops comes to town and casts a wide net over the public exchequer.

If you are a small business owner, you try showing up at the county commission and ask for tax breaks, or a widening of the road in front of your establishment, or some other enhancement and what do you think will happen? Cue the laugh track.

This is hardly a knock on Bass Pro Shops. Look, if local government wants to hand over $15 million to lure the company here, Bass Pro Shops executives would be remiss in not taking the money and running.

You don't get to be a Fortune 500 company by walking away from free moola.

But if Hillsborough County government is going to suddenly get all Daddy Warbucks and start throwing money at Bass Pro Shops, it should also provide some tax breaks and business redevelopment monies for the smaller merchants most filleted by the deal.

From the perspective of sitting on the dock of the bay — that's only fair.

Comments
Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

It’s hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bay’s two primary job placement agencies, CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. Is it the boiler room atmosphere where CareerSource recruite...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18

Family separation crisis is not over

The family-separation crisis that President Donald Trump created is not over. The executive order Trump signed Wednesday purporting to end the routine tearing of children from their undocumented parents stands on uncertain legal ground. U.S. border a...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. That’s the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney general’s misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect — prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18