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Gander Mountain located new Tampa store without incentives

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Published:   |   Updated: August 28, 2013 at 12:57 PM

None. That one-word response describes how much in government incentives Gander Mountain officials sought or received to build an outdoor gear superstore in the Tampa area.

The store will open with dozens of tents, backpacks, kayaks, firearms and fishing poles, but there will be no sales tax breaks for the company to do so. No credits on future income taxes, no government assistance for roadway improvements or credits to create jobs.

That's because the privately owned St. Paul Minn.-based Gander Mountain has a long-standing company practice of not seeking or accepting government incentives to build retail stores. Only on very rare occasions has the company wavered from that rule, said spokesman Jess Myers, for instance, if a store was part of a urban redevelopment project. Those instances likely total less than a few of the roughly 130 stores the company will have built by the end of this year.

“It's just part of the company philosophy,” Myers said. “No incentives.”

That line of thinking stands in contrast to one of Gander Mountain's arch rivals in the outdoor retail market, Bass Pro Shops, which has built many of its superstores around the nation with the help of incentives. A planned store in Brandon is moving forward after several contentious debates at the county level of how much money or perks would go to the project. Ultimately, the county settled on a plan to spend $6.25 million on roadway improvements around the Bass Pro site, partly on the reasoning that the 145,000 square foot megasite is far larger than typical retailers, and would become a destination spot for tourists that will generate jobs and sales taxes in excess of the incentives.

Compared to the average Bass Pro location, those built by Gander Mountain tend to be smaller, though they are hardly petite in the retail landscape. Gander Mountain on Wednesday confirmed plans to build a store at 11655 W. Hillsborough Ave., taking up the entirety of a former BestBuy location just east of the border with Oldsmar. When opened this autumn, the store will stretch to about 34,000 square feet, and include gear for camping, fishing, hunting, canoeing and kayaking, and have a major firearms store. This would be the sixth Gander Mountain store in Florida, and the first in the Tampa Bay region. The next closest store is in the Ocala area.

There's also a major Gander Mountain store in Lake Mary that includes a Gander Mountain Academy for teaching firearms use that includes live-fire shooting ranges, plus special virtual reality rooms with 360-degree screens around a shooter who is equipped with an electronic gun.

Simulator managers can select scenarios ranging from a hunter stalking a deer in the woods, to a retail parking lot where a villain pops out from behind a woman's car door.

“The military has had such simulators for years,” Myers said. “But this is the first time the general public can use them. They are distinctly realistic. They put you in an elevated stress level, and you have to make a decision. Do I use the weapon I have or not.”

The simulator complex is also open to law enforcement groups and provides far more intense scenarios, such as live-shooter scenarios and hostage situations.

By contrast, the store in Tampa will focus on sporting goods, Myers said, though the store will have one novel feature. Customers shopping for a firearm can browse the store, but also use a series of digital kiosks to sort through tens of thousands of firearms that Gander Mountain keeps in its warehouse, or at other stores. After completing the required paperwork, Gander Mountain will deliver the gun to a local store for pickup.

The Tampa area store will likely employ 50 to 70 people, Myers said, and many of the positions are already posted online at the company's Web site.

rmullins@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7919

Twitter: @DailyDeadline

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