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Commentary: Bass Pro or Con

By Dan Lenard

Buffalo, NY – Last week, my wife, 2 kids and I took a jaunt down the New York State Thruway to meet some Albany area friends and their son mid-state in the City of Auburn. We had a memorable time driving through the picturesque Finger Lakes Region. We discovered the wonderful little Fillmore Glen State Park outside of Morovia, New York and walked along its Civilian Conservation Corps era trails, a unique creek feed swimming pool, marveled at its stunning waterfalls and glen and peered into the replica of a cabin celebrating the birthplace of President Millard Fillmore. All during one of the most gorgeous early October days I have ever seen. That evening, I ventured down the road to see what Auburn's best-known attraction had to offer, the celebrated Bass Pro mega- store. Not being an avid outdoorsman, I was still impressed with the overwhelming variety of out door gear this retailer had to offer.

There's an old joke Johnny Carson used to tell that said: "If God didn't want men to hunt, why did he create plaid flannel?" There was plenty of that, along with camouflage flannel, corduroy shirts, pants and hats. There were a billion varieties of tents simple enough for a weekend camping trip, or at base camp at Mount Everest. There was rack after rack of the finest angling gear available and much more. The big attraction at this particular store was a 25,000 gallon fresh water fishing aquarium stocked with examples of all the game fish the region has to offer. Wide-mouth, Striped and Rock Bass, Salmon, trout and the prehistoric Muskies and Pike. Very impressive, and, as the store was closing at 9:00, it was still very busy on a Saturday night.

This store employs 185 people and perhaps created some economic benefit to the area. Was it an attraction to Auburn? The attraction to Auburn is that it is centrally located in a fantastic fresh-water fishing region. The people are there because of the great outdoors, not because of Bass Pro. Bass pro saw a potential market for its wares and set up shop there.

What enticements did New York and Cayuga County offer Bass-Pro? According to a press release from Governor Pataki's office, not much. They were qualified to apply for a $475,000 matching grant for furniture and such.

So what's the deal? Bass Pro is being, pardon the pun, lured here with $66 million in funds as incentives. Why are we anteing up such a fortune when Bass Pro obviously doesn't need that type of incentive. They should see a revitalized entertainment area adjacent to a giant Freshwater lake and a recreational river in a large metropolitan area. Sounds even better than Auburn! A little research reveals that Bass Pro has been extorting deals like this all across the fruited plane. It's pure corporate welfare. They improve their bottom line, politicians on both sides of the isle get re-elected for bringing home the bacon. Subsidizing business never works! Buffalo is a museum of this failed strategy.

Look outside the box here. Lowes is opening two mega stores just in Amherst. Other large retailers are investing here without those incentives. What makes Bass Pro so special? It's an attraction? It's a sporting goods store for crying out loud. Don't get me wrong. I welcome Bass Pro to Western New York. I think they can make a ton of money here just like in Auburn, whether we invest in them or not. They're playing our dysfunctional political bodies like a fiddle, just like John Rigas and Co. did. Where's the Adelphia Tower? Where are the jobs? Where's John Rigas?

"Looking Outside the Box" with veteran broadcaster and professional narrator Dan Lenard is a monthly feature of WBFO News. Click the "listen" icon above to hear the commentary now or use your podcasting software to download it to your computer or iPod.