Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Fish Story

County Council voted last night to finalize the tax abatement deal to Bass Pro Shops. Under the deal, Bass will develop one of it's superstores in the old Goodyear complex. In return, they get to keep 75% of sales tax revenues over 10 years or until they make back their investment , whichever happens first.

Yesterday's preview story on the vote described Bass as:

    a sprawling destination retailer which typically includes an aquarium, indoor boat showroom, climbing wall and theme restaurant.

    The sports equipment retailer has 30 stores in the United States and Canada, including Cincinnati and Detroit, and another 28 in the works, including one outside Toledo.
To fit under the "Impact Law" that allows the abatement, a company must:
    have a substantial impact on the area; invest at least $50 million in land, buildings and infrastructure over two years; bring in at least 100 new jobs; have an exhibition or educational component; and attract visitors from at least 100 miles away.
As a development deal, this sounds like a no-brainer. Big retailers just don't set up shop in big cities anymore, much less in an area less travelled like Goodyear Heights. Akron gets an anchor tenant in a building that otherwise might become another blight sight. They get whatever income tax comes from the employees, they get spillover business and, if the store takes, tax revenue from 11 years on. All this for giving up something that presumably Akron wouldn't have without the deal. The Akron Watch crowd will no doubt howl about it, but it sounds like a good deal to me.

I don't know the business well enough to opine on whether having a Bass shop in town is the big deal it sounds like. Redhorse, our resident hook 'n' bullet guy, will no doubt have something to say on that.

Boring asks aloud whether Bass has real prospects of pulling in folks from 100 miles out. Looking at the Bass website, the store sponsors events like pro tournaments, scout camps and in-store promotions that would bring people in from all around. That what will pull folks in. No one is going to drive up here from Mansfield just to buy tackle -- I'm sure there's a Dick's somewhere in between -- but if Bass sponsors a tournament in the Portage Lakes, say, that can bring in the fishing enthusiasts from all around, not to mention the pro teams who are from all across the country.

And by the way, if all that happens, it could lead to a greater awareness of the importance of cleaning up the rivers and lakes around here. If the area is to become a fishing destination, we need good water to fish in. Again, Red can fill you in on the particulars there.

In any event, it's not clear from the ABJ story what the next step is. Presumably, the deal has to go through a state agency to verify that it meets the criteria, but it isn't mentioned in either story. And yes, I have an email in to the reporter per my new policy.

I'm not at all fond of tax abatements. I'm not fond of the trend away from state and federal aid that levels the field among cities and toward a system of abatements in which cities compete to offer the most generous corporate welfare packages. One bit of evidence of the difficulty with the trend is the controversy over keeping the deal secret during negotiations. Keeping negotiations under wraps is exactly how business operates and exactly how government is not supposed to. When the system forces cities to negotiate business deals, the clash between the spheres becomes apparent.

All that said, given that we operate in the world as it is, this deal seems better than most. I hope it turns out as good as it looks.


Anonymous said...

I'm not a fishing/hunting type, but when a Bass Pro Shop opened in the Cincinnati suburbs a couple years ago, it seemed like a big deal. Many people I know were excited about it. It beats a Supermega WalMart, I suppose.

Jason Haas said...

um, it's big. more later.

Jason Haas said...

And as promised: Hey Ho, Bass Pro.