Retailer Seeks End to Public Financing
By George Anderson
Like other retailers, the outdoor lifestyle chain Gander Mountain has benefited from public subsidies when it’s come to building its stores. That, its CEO Mark Baker has concluded, is just plain wrong.
Upset over public subsidies being given to competitors Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s, Mr. Baker has hired lobbyists and met with political leaders to argue against public subsidies for any retailer.
Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s do not share Mr. Baker’s assessment.
“If (Gander) put the dollars we put in our stores, and the uniqueness, then maybe they could get public money, too,” Larry Whiteley, a spokesperson for Bass Pro Shops, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Our locations are museums, art galleries, aquariums, conservation-education centers. … And by the way, they’re retail stores.”
Mr. Baker fires back. “I think Cabela’s and Bass Pro have really interesting stores, but when you get to 30, 40 or 50 of these stores, they become less of a destination.”
Others find merit in Mr. Baker’s argument.
“It doesn’t seem to matter that this country is swimming in grossly overbuilt retail space,” said Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First. “Retailers have become bolder with their requests (for public money).”
Moderator’s Comment: Where do you come down on this issue? Should public monies be used to attract retail businesses? Does granting tax abatements or
other enticements alter the competitive playing field? –
George Anderson – Moderator