Business leaders, Rep. Sanford oppose Bass Pro Shops, incentives

By Stacy

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Rep. Mark Sanford met with local business owners Friday afternoon to talk about state tax incentives given to Bass Pro Shops to build a new location in North Charleston.

Several business owners said they are not opposed to the hunting and fishing retailer building the new location, but they do not want their tax dollars to help fund a competitor.

"I'm concerned about [Bass Pro Shops'] business model. Their business model is to get tax incentives,"said Jamee Haley, executive director of Lowcountry Local First.

"Ultimately what we're looking at here is $15-25 million expenditure of tax monies," Sanford said.

"We're not against competition. We're not against them coming. We're against the fact that we're subsidizing the people to come here and compete against the people who have built the area to what it is," said Scott Hammond, general manager at Haddrell's Point Tackle in West Ashley.

Sanford said he rallied against the state's retail tax incentive bill when he was governor. He vetoed it but state lawmakers overruled it, he said.

He does not believe retailers should receive incentives, since they will always build where they have shoppers to support business.

"They always follow purchasing power," Sanford said. "So this is a case of paying for what I would argue we already got, which makes it therefore not such a good use of taxpayer money, relative to education, port funding and all the other things in the mix."

Construction has already begun on the new Bass Pro Shops location in North Charleston, according to North Charleston city officials.

But those in attendance hoped they could make a difference in stopping future retailers from getting tax breaks in South Carolina.

"Maybe by this conversation taking place, somebody at the State House says, 'We better make sure we cap this. We have launched this one, but if we don't watch out, were going to launch another 50 with retail incentives,'" Sanford said.

Bass Pro Shops will get half off its taxes for the next 15 years, officials said.