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Oklahoma City Councilman calls Cabela's incentives deal 'extortion'

The Oklahoma City Council voted 7-1 Tuesday to proceed with negotiating a $3.5 million incentives agreement with sporting goods chain Cabela’s despite criticism the retailer is using threats to win millions from cities nationwide.
by Steve Lackmeyer Published: June 11, 2014


photo - Ward 2 city councilman Ed Shadid during the city council meeting at City Hall in Oklahoma City Tuesday, April 12, 2011. Photo by Paul B. Southerland, The Oklahoman
Ward 2 city councilman Ed Shadid during the city council meeting at City Hall in Oklahoma City Tuesday, April 12, 2011. Photo by Paul B. Southerland, The Oklahoman

The Oklahoma City Council voted 7-1 Tuesday to proceed with negotiating a $3.5 million incentives agreement with sporting goods chain Cabela’s despite criticism the retailer is using extortion-style tactics to win millions in aid from cities nationwide.

Cabela’s confirmed last week it intends to build an 80,000-square-foot store later this year as part of the Chisholm Creek retail development at Western Avenue and Kilpatrick Turnpike. The chain has successfully obtained incentives from cities across the country and is seeking a $3.5 million incentive from Oklahoma City that would be based on a 1.2 percent performance of the store’s sales.

“It is sizable,” Councilman Ed Shadid said Tuesday before casting the lone vote against negotiating the agreement. “It’s about 20 years of our social services budget. It is far in excess of what we’re trying to put together for bus service and police officers.”

In a report to the city council, Brent Bryant, who heads the city’s economic development programs, reported the deal was necessary to ensure the retailer did not choose to build its store in a surrounding suburb. Bryant forecasts the store will generate $40 million to $50 million in annual sales and will attract between 1.25 million and 1.35 million shoppers.

Bryant said the agreement likely will not prohibit the retailer from opening other stores elsewhere in the state.

Cabela’s has 50 stores in the United States and is in the midst of an expansion that includes opening 14 stores this year and 13 to 15 stores each year “for the next few years.” The Nebraska retailer has reported double-digit percentage increases in sales over the past several years.

“We’re not talking about doing something that wouldn’t happen if not for the incentive, like getting a grocery store in a food desert,” Shadid said. “This is to keep them in the city limits with the implicit threat if we don’t pay the $3.5 million it could go to a suburb like Yukon. How would that not fall within the definition of extortion?”

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by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter and columnist who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's Metropolitan...
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