Chasing a Retail Fad With Gov’t $

Still, proponents of Bass Pro argue that the sheer scope of the Bass Pro/Aud project puts it above any competition. That, of course, is ridiculous, as is the notion that people will drive down in droves from southern Ontario to the Bass Pro in Buffalo when the company is already operating an outlet in suburban Toronto.

The superstore concept that Bass Pro presented is novel, but untested over time. Will it be as attractive to consumers ten years down the road? Probably not.

Also on the same front page of Business First was an article about how Republican Congressman Jack Quinn has vowed that the Bass Pro project will be his top priority in his final months in office. Don’t look now, but the editors of Business First might just be on to something.

Until very recently, industrial development agencies were forbidden from investing in retail operations. Retail jobs generally pay low wages and are unnecessary for government to support because retailers typically respond to demand. The question is how big is the market for outdoor gear and should government be in the business of stimulating competition in this market sector.

Intermodal Casino Pork

This critical question is not being asked and that doesn’t make any sense, unless you look at whom the project will benefit. As we’ve reported earlier, Bass Pro is also involved in a superstore/casino/resort in Las Vegas. It’s not hard to imagine the Bass Pro megalith in the Aud doubling as a downtown casino. How this project is eligible for federal monies under the heading of “intermodal transportation” is a credit to Jack Quinn’s creativity in carving out sculptures of spam from the Washington pork barrel. Too bad, Tony twiddled his thumbs while the $100 million in transportation funds that Quinn lined up dwindled down to the current figure of $34 million.

South towns Casino May Create Cattaraugus County Tax Shelter

The Seneca Gaming Compact acted as a springboard for a casino in the Southtowns, located near Salamanca. Of course, businesses built on Seneca tribal territory in the vicinity of this new casino would be exempt from New York State taxes. The creation of this tax-free zone, which includes the upscale resort area of Ellicottville, is being used as a rationale for a massive overhaul of the Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency.

If passed, the new CCIDA will become a tax break trough of unprecedented proportions.

Who Loses?

According to an article in The Buffalo News on a new proposal being considered by the Cattaraugus Industrial Development Agency, “...municipalities and school districts will have to wait 15 years to receive full property tax revenues from new manufacturing, commercial, and tourist-related developments.”

The logic is simple: since the Salamanca casino will create all sorts of “tax free” spin-off businesses for the Seneca Tribal Council kingpins, the rest of Cattaraugas County business (or at least the politically connected ventures) deserve the same sort of “tax relief.”

Who Wins

This could all turn out to be big help for Casino Buffalo Cheerleader Carl Paladino, who now wants to build a new hotel in Ellicottville. By sheer coincidence, Paladino has lobbied the CCIDA to go through with the proposed changes.

If this latest “tax avoidance” mechanism is allowed to stand in Cattaraugus County, think of the sort of tax breaks could be generated by the creation of a casino in Erie County.

Joel Rose, co-chair of Citizens Against Gaming in Erie County, commented in an e-mail on the Cattaraugus deal: “If you're a small player, and the competition opens up across the street with tax-free sales, you take your lumps. But if you're a big player, one who finances many a political campaign, you just get the local taxpayers to chip in and cover you, while you go right on promoting the policies which lead to this mess in the first place. The sheer gall takes my breath away.” Buffalo is a community with a lot of problems. It suffers from an eroding tax base, the gross mismanagement of the Masiello administration, and a business culture that is dominated by a risk-averse banker with little or no clue about how to promote sustainable job growth in the region.

The litany of problems does not, by any means, end there. Another idiosyncrasy of our decadent political culture is the tendency to artificially stimulate competition through government handouts to businesses operating in struggling sectors of the economy. We’ve documented this many times in the past. Conservatives and liberals can agree that this sort of profligacy is out of control, and yet it continues to occur in Simpson-esque proportions.

The latest mega-project that The Buffalo News and others are promoting is the conversion of Memorial Auditorium into a Bass Pro Shop. The final price tag is not yet available but, when all public subsidies are combined, it would not be unrealistic to expect the grand total to be in excess of 100 million dollars. by John McMahon

The argument in favor of the subsidies is that the fishing and hunting superstore will be a major attraction and a regional draw. Business First, however, is reporting that a Cabela, a Bass Pro competitor in the retail market for sportsmen, is considering opening a superstore in Ripley, just north of the Pennsylvania border and in the heart of hunting and fishing country. Big Country/ big box retailers, such as Galyan’s and Gander Mountain, as well as a myriad of smaller vendors, have already responded to the demand for outdoor gear by opening outlets in Western New York.