Sunday, December 17, 2017
Editorials

Dangling bait for a bad deal

The offer to spend $15 million in tax money to attract a Bass Pro Shops store represents what's wrong with Hillsborough County's job development efforts. It would create low-tech jobs, undermine existing businesses and pay for unneeded road work. It's the kind of thinking that puts Tampa Bay behind similar metropolitan areas, and the county should move beyond this traditional approach and start being creative.

Details of the proposal, in the works for two years, were first disclosed Tuesday. In exchange for a developer bringing a Bass Pro Shops outlet to the Brandon area, the county would provide $1.5 million for construction, another $8 million for nearby road work and up to $5.5 million over a 10-year period, depending on the volume of sales. The county might also make available other cash incentives such as credits for transportation impact fees.

County Administrator Mike Merrill said a store — expected to be roughly three times the size of a football field — could create 369 full-time jobs and add millions of dollars to the tax base. A retail, hotel and commercial complex alongside the store, if fully built by 2020, could create 1,517 temporary constructions jobs and 1,327 full-time retail jobs once the project was fully open. Merrill said the county could break even on its cash assistance after several years. The proposal is now between Bass and Palm Beach Gardens developer David Verardo. Any deal would then go to the County Commission.

But there are at least three things wrong with this fishy deal. First, the county never breaks even. It might get a bump from increased property, sales and hotel tax collections. But it doesn't recover the cash it would lay out in the first place. And this money would give a competitive edge to Bass, the nearby retail and commercial complex and the hotel that existing businesses do not enjoy. Helping a big-box store at the expense of smaller retailers amounts to Robin Hood in reverse.

Second, tax incentives for job development are intended to reflect a public purpose — attract high-wage jobs, diversify the economy or help develop a niche industry. Bass would do none of these things. For all the hoopla about how Bass shops are a draw, this still is a retail operation. And retail follows people. The bay area has 4 million residents; Bass either has a market or not. And the county certainly should not be ginning up an established business when a third or more of its customers are expected to be non-Hillsborough residents.

Finally, and most importantly, pursuing low-hanging fruit such as retail distracts the county from contributing to the region's new focus on building a name in personalized medicine, defense technology, marine science and other high-wage industries.

Details of the Bass proposal came out on the very day that the region's business development group, the Tampa Bay Partnership, announced that the bay area languishes behind Dallas, Raleigh, N.C., and other similar markets in developing high-tech industries. Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced last week that Apple Inc. will expand its campus in Austin, thanks to $21 million in state subsidies. Texas gets Apple — and Hillsborough pursues the worm.

Comments

Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17