The Politics of Attracting a Bass Pro Shops or a Cabela’s Store


Hardly a season goes by when someone doesn’t ask me when is Cabelas or Bass Pro going to come to the Triangle? I don’t know is the best I can say even though throughout the years there has been a lot of rumors about it happening. Typically to attract one of those outdoor giant’s there seems to be a lot of incentives that need to be offered by state and local governments to get this done. An interesting report by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
brings into question why local governments use tax payer dollars to subsidize one of these retailers to open up in their town.

Typically, these stores are financed through familiar economic development schemes like tax increment financing districts. Basically, a city borrows money by selling bonds on Wall Street and then pays off the debt with the increase in property or sales taxes generated in that TIF district.

The Franklin Center filed hundreds of state open records requests with cities, counties, economic development authorities and state governments seeking copies of development agreements both firms have entered into.

After analyzing the development agreements, state audits, bond issues, development studies and local news accounts the Franklin Center found:

Cabela’s has received $551 million in local and state assistance during the past 15 years.
Bass Pro Shops received $1.3 billion in local and state assistance during the same period.
The federal government helped ensure liquidity for Cabela’s’ credit card division by providing $400 million in financing for the purchase of the company’s securitized debt.

Both firms have a history of targeting rural or smaller suburban communities and negotiating deals that involve extensive borrowing on the part of the municipality to build a store.

The Atlantic Cites

There is no doubt that these stores attract folks in from other places that might not have traveled to or stopped in these towns. Ask my wife how often I stop at or travel a particular route so I can hit one of these stores. As they get more and more locations the novelty does wear off so for some towns it really may not be worth the investment to put tax payers money into attracting these companies. I think we see it reflected in Cabelas and Bass Pro themselves as the more recent stores are smaller and less elaborate as compared to ones the were building 10 years ago.

Here in North Carolina we have one Bass Pro outside of the Charlotte area in a town called Concord. I believe it opened in 1999 but I’m not 100% on that but I’ll tell you the economic growth around that store over the past decade or so is humungous. One only needs to travel I85 through that area especially on a weekend and the traffic is heavy most of the time. I’ve got to believe the City of Concord has recouped for the tax payers any money they laid out.

Should the tax payers subsidize a business like Cabelas or Bass Pro to get them to move in? I don’t know I see pros and cons I guess it would depend on the details but in general I don’t think its a legitimate use of tax payer money.

So when is one of these companies going to open up here in the triangle? I’m not sure. While I’d love to see one of them here and I’m sure my UPS man would love for one to be here in this current economy it might take a while. So until then I’ll be stopping along the highways and byways of this great nation wherever a Cabelas or Bass Pro is located.

Me in front of Cabelas in Maine
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