In January, the mayor of Harlingen proclaimed the local Bass Pro shop the tops in the nation, saying “report after report shows the Harlingen store exceeding even Bass Pro’s expectations and sales goals. Of the 58 stores around the nation, Harlingen is Number 1 in many different departments and categories, from T-shirts and caps to all-terrain vehicles,” according to a transcript of Boswell’s speech cited by the Valley Morning Star newspaper.
Today, though, comes a report that Bass Pro, a private company which was granted generous tax breaks of up to $7 million, is about $6 million light in terms of gross sales, “resulting in less money for the city and Harlingen Economic Development Corporation to pay off debt associated with the initiative,” according to the Brownsville Herald. The corporation is funded with sales taxes.
From the story:
“HEDC staff advised the board at a workshop, where operations through the end of July were reviewed, that the estimated gross sales figure is now $19 million. That means that HEDC might have to inject another $260,000 to meet this fiscal year’s debt obligation of $1.7 million, officials said.”
The merits of tax breaks to major corporations have been debated for years, from deals with developers – which we manage through specially created districts in Texas – to publicly-funded sports venues.
We wrote last year about Bass Pro’s attempt to hide its dealings with the city of Harlingen, no doubt soured by the outing of its business with the city of Memphis, which was posted online, and a tough assessment of Bass Pro’s public cash allotments around the U.S. by an accountability group.
In its home state of Missouri, Bass Pro sued a town that forked over $73 million in tax abatements for a Bass-anchored development.
It’s not just Bass Pro stores that get the breaks. Tracker Marine, a boat manufacturing arm of Bass Pro, also benefits from tax breaks. It solicited $450,000 in state tax credits for a plant in Lebanon, Missouri.
The study and bad publicity hasn’t deterred the flow of cash; Hillsborough County in Florida is currently entertaining handing over $15 million in public money to Bass Pro. A story in the Tampa Tribune in March examined the policy acumen of Bass Pro’s management and the breaks the company has received versus the everyday businessman.
Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or email@example.com.
Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.