Bass Pro Shops recently felt the need for a little help in getting approval for a new store in Tampa, Fla., so the company turned to officials where its other 77 stores are already located -- including Macon.
Commissioners in Floridas Hillsborough County were asked to vote Feb. 20 on a big incentive package for Bass Pro Shops. On Feb. 4, Katherine White, operations manager at the Macon store, e-mailed Macons Customer Service Coordinator Denise Mercer at City Hall, telling her about the issues Bass Pro was having with Tampa officials to get a store approved there. She asked for Macon officials to write a letter to the Florida commissioners to tell them about the good things Bass Pro has done for Macon-Bibb County.
White included a sample letter and asked for city officials to send in their versions by Feb. 10 so they could be forwarded to Tampa in time for the Hillsborough County Commissions decision.
Macon Councilman Tom Ellington said city officials get lots of e-mails asking for opinions on pending legislation, but not to get involved in another states affairs.
In my time on council, I cant recall something similar, he said. Ellington didnt reply and doesnt know of any council member who did.
I didnt feel comfortable intervening in whats clearly a local matter in Florida, he said.
Chris Floore, Macons Public Affairs director, said the administration didnt send a formal response. He e-mailed back, asking for further details, but didnt get a response, Floore said.
The city is often asked to support the Macon-Bibb County Convention & Visitors Bureaus bid for conventions, Floore said, but he doesnt recall being asked to endorse a company.
A spokesman for Bass Pro Shops did not receive an official response to questions about the practice in time for this story.
Hillsborough County commissioners voted 6-1 to approve a $6.25 million incentive package for the Bass Pro Shops store, according to the Tampa Bay Times newspaper. A company news release says the 140,000-square-foot store is planned for a very high-profile site off Interstate 75 and will open in 2014.
Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan, described as the deals biggest proponent, told the Tampa Bay Times that the county should get those incentives back in four years through property and sales tax revenue.
Rich Reidy, legislative aide to Hagan, said Hillsborough commissioners did get endorsement letters from New York and Missouri towns with Bass Pro Shops, but none from Macon.
I do not recall that any of those letters were actually referenced in the presentation to the commissioners, but Im sure copies were supplied in their backup materials, Reidy said.
To contact writer Jim Gaines call 744-4489.