Commissioners may be willing to pay $8.5 M to make Bass Pro Shops deal

Debate over public money for private company

TAMPA -  "We are in desperate need of jobs in this county," said contractor Frank Ripa.

Thousands of local paychecks could be created on this Brandon property blanketed in scrub pines and palmettos.

"I would argue that economic development opportunities of this magnitude don't come around often," said Chairman Ken Hagan.

But luring sprawling retailer Bass Pro Shops could take $8.5-million taxpayer dollars paid as incentive to a commercial developer to carve out roadways around  the project.

"This project generates over 1700 constructions jobs annually for five years. The permanent impact includes over 1500," said

The site is sandwiched in between I-75 and Falkenberg Road just south of Adamo Drive. Hagan says the project would pay for itself within five years and generate hundreds of thousands in property tax revenue for the county.

But the project could also take away Jeff Boje's livelihood. 

"Oh we would be in direct competition. There's no question," he said.

His family business, Brandon Crossroads Bowling, complete with a 16-lane bowling alley, is a few minutes drive from where the sprawling outdoor superstore would take shape.  But when he built his business, he paid for the road improvements.

"If they're going to compete with me, do it on a fair and even playing field, just like I've had to do," said Boje.

Some county commissioners say they want to make the project work, but Boje wants to know if it is worth millions in public dollars going to a private investment.

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