Bass Pro Shops in Port St. Lucie: Incentives not promised to lure Bass Pro Shops to Treasure Coast

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Financial incentives haven't been promised to lure Bass Pro Shops to the Treasure Coast, state and local officials said Thursday, as has been done in Brevard County.

Outside of fast-tracking, neither the state nor local governments have promised cash incentives or tax breaks.

"Absolutely not, this stands alone," Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County President Larry Pelton said. "This stands on their business model and their expectations for the store, so no, there are no incentives being offered."

Port St. Lucie City Manager Greg Oravec concurred. Government incentives sparked interest and outrage after Digital Domain Media Group filed for bankruptcy in September after receiving millions of dollars in public incentives.

"We're excited that they're here," Oravec said of Bass Pro Shops. "We'll make sure that they go through the (permitting) process and no corners are cut."

The city will expedite the permit review process, however, said Pelton, who met with the company but was not involved in negotiations.

Port St. Lucie city officials announced Tuesday that Bass Pro Shops, a national retailer for outdoor sports, has started the approval process to open the vacant 100,000-square-foot Kohl's building on Gatlin Boulevard, in a potential boon to the area's retail shoppers. Negotiations for the Port St. Lucie site are not complete, but both sides are working through the process.

"I can confirm that our founder, Johnny Morris has visited the Port St. Lucie site several times and plans to be there again in the near future," Bass Pro Shops spokeswoman Katie Mitchell wrote in an email to Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers Tuesday. "Bass Pro Shops is very passionate about Florida and we are excited and optimistic to work something out that will enable us to open a store in this market."

Coming to an existing building will expedite the process, said Anne Cox, Port St. Lucie's Assistant Director of Planning and Zoning.

"Because this is an existing approved site plan, (Bass Pro Shops) just wants to change the parking around a little bit," Cox said. "The building is mostly built. If this was a brand new site, the process would take a couple months to be approved."

The permitting could be done in less than six weeks, Oravec said. "The approval process should be done by the end of February."

Should Bass Pro Shops come to Port St. Lucie, the store would become the company's 11th in Florida. Six are built and four others are planning to open within the next two years — with the Port St. Lucie store being the 11th.

For its proposed Palm Bay store, Bass Pro Shops received unspecified incentives from Enterprise Florida, and Brevard Workforce offered a job training grant for qualified employees. By law, Bass Pro Shops' incentive contract is confidential, so the Enterprise Florida would not release details, said Stuart Doyle, vice president of communications.

Enterprise Florida, a public-private economic development arm of the state whose mission is to create jobs and help state businesses grow and expand, has not entered into any other incentive projects with the company, Doyle said. The agency typically does not offer incentives to retailers like Bass Pro Shops, instead it targets such high-growth industries as life sciences, information technology and distribution companies, Doyle said.

Bass Pro Shops is a retail company that crosses into tourism with open shopping floors and other entertainment offerings for shoppers. Neither of those businesses are targeted industries for St. Lucie County, which instead focuses on manufacturing and clean energy companies among other industries. Being a targeted industry is a strong precursor to receiving local cash incentives, according to St. Lucie County's targeted industry list.

Though retail is not a targeted industry in the county, Bass Pro Shops offers more than the typical retail company, Pelton said.

"It's great news for the community," Pelton said. "I think of them obviously as a retail operation, but more importantly it's a tourist attraction, and it really is a very strong attraction. ... You'll be amazed at all the activity of people just having to go in and see it and shop there."

Morris' focus when he started out in the early 1970s was on fishing, but he has expanded Bass Pro Shops over the years into one of the nation's most complete outdoor retail outlets.

All shops have boat showrooms plus related marine equipment, shooting and archery ranges, giant salt water aquariums and many offer full-service restaurants.

Shops also feature merchandise areas for fishing, hunting, shooting and camping/cooking gear; men's, ladies, children, hunting/camping clothing; shoes, boots, golf equipment and home items.

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