After several hours of back and forth debate over whether to use public money to lure Bass Pro Shops to the Bay area, commissioners finally reached a decision.
They decided to delay a decision.
The proposed mega outdoor store would go in Brandon off I-75, and the debate is whether to use taxpayer money to help them do it.
Some local small business owners say it shouldn't, but the debate is far from over.
Bass Pro Shops calls itself America's most popular outdoor store, but they're not exactly being welcome to Hillsborough County by fellow business owners.
Several showed up to Wednesday's county commissioners meeting to urge them to reject a plan that would lure the store here with more than $8 million in taxpayer money.
"We have a problem competing when they're being given money by the county," said Jon Reinke, president of Outcast Water Sports.
"I'm never in favor of public funds being used for private property," said Jeff Boje of Brandon Crossroads Bowl.
Those funds would go to the developer to pay for road work nearby, but Boje said helping Bass Pro Shops is a blow to the little guy.
"They are in direct competition with us only a couple of blocks away," he said. "Using my tax dollars over the last 20 to 30 years in Hillsborough County to pay for my competition."
That competition wants to setup shop off in a new commercial development off I-75 in Brandon. Bass Pro Shops plans for a new 140,000-square-foot store. It would be the ninth in Florida. It would even have a restaurant and a bowling alley.
Still, company officials don't see big box as a business killer.
"We get people excited about the outdoors, and we get them into whether it's kayaking, that sort of thing," said Martin MacDonald of Bass Pro Shops. "They may not come back to us for a kayak, but they get that interest that may go somewhere else. We're creating new customers."
He said the store would bring visitors from out of the county – even out of state. In terms of jobs, the project could get close to 2,000, considering construction and store employment.
But first, decisions must be made over that money. There's been plenty of talk, but no vote. Commissioners say they need more time to talk to the public.
They plan on taking up the issue again on Feb. 6. One business owner said if commissioners thought opposition was strong now, wait until February.
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