Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Other BP: Bass Pro

Posted By on Thu, Jun 10, 2010 at 10:20 AM

Bass Pro is back in the news. A new report by a pair of researchers in Buffalo, New York, is skeptical about Bass Pro's ability to generate enough sales and development to justify the tax incentives it receives.

Memphis is one of the cities the authors of the report looked at. They didn't get into the special circumstances involving The Pyramid and local connections to Bass Pro, so I don't think the report will make any difference. Here are four reasons why I think Bass Pro is still a go.

First, it has the support of Mayor A C ("Another Committee") Wharton and Housing and Community Development Director Robert Lipscomb. Neither one shows any sign of changing his mind. Lipscomb has been working this deal since 2005, if not longer, and although I think he sincerely believes in it for Memphis, he's been beaten up over it so much that his ego has gotten involved as well. A majority of members of the Memphis City Council would say yes to anything that involves spending public money and creating jobs, whatever the cost.

Second, there isn't a better proposal out there for The Pyramid. A city that can't tear down the Sears Crosstown building or part of Overton Square is not going to tear down The Pyramid. No big corporation, local or otherwise, is looking to locate its headquarters downtown. Bass Pro is the rough equivalent of a new corporate headquarters in a downtown whose future is government offices, residential development, tourism, and entertainment.

Third, a Bass Pro superstore on the Mississippi River in Memphis is a different, and in my view more attractive, proposition than a Bass Pro in North Little Rock or Buffalo, New York. The friendship of Bass Pro founder Johnny Morris and professional fisherman Bill Dance of Memphis is a good connection.

Fourth, I can't think of a fourth. Like some other Memphians I have Bass Pro burnout and am watching another BP — British Petroleum — instead. Bass Pro seemed like a good idea five or six years ago, and as tax-sucking projects go, I still like it better than Triangle Noir, the Fairgrounds redeveloment, or the Graceland redevelopment. Reservations aside, I hope it works.

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