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Published: Friday, 9/15/2006

Wood County eager for talks with Bass Pro

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - Wood County commissioners shot off a letter to Bass Pro Outdoor World yesterday letting the company know they're ready to talk business.

With confirmation from the Ohio Department of Development that Bass Pro's proposed $50 million project in Rossford qualifies for a sales tax rebate, commissioners told the company they'd send a draft agreement to it within the next week.

"Based on this declaration, we are now able to proceed with negotiations for an agreement with Bass Pro regarding the reimbursement of sales tax generated by this retail facility," the commissioners wrote.

Larry Whiteley, spokesman for the Springfield, Mo.-based retailer, said yesterday he was unaware Bass Pro's application for the sales tax rebate had been approved but is certain company officials are ready to talk.

Under a new Ohio law, commissioners may reimburse Bass Pro for up to 75 percent of the county's 1 percent sales tax on sales made at the store for 10 years to help the company pay for its development costs. To qualify, Bass Pro had to show it would invest at least $50 million, employ at least 150 full-time- equivalent workers, attract at least half of its customers from more than 100 miles away, and dedicate at least 10 percent of the facility to educational activities and exhibits.

Mr. Brown said commissioners have not yet talked about whether they will offer Bass Pro the full 75 percent reimbursement for 10 years. "The law clearly says we have the right to negotiate this," he said. "My position is that we should."

Mr. Brown said he expects the board to discuss the issue in a public meeting once they get a draft proposal from the county prosecutor. He said he welcomes public input.

"I think that's part of the process. We have to negotiate a deal, and the public's comments on this are welcome," he said, adding that so far he's heard only favorable comments. "One of the things I've heard more times than not is that people really seem to understand we're not giving away any of the county's tax base. If Bass Pro comes here, we get something. If they don't, we get nothing."

Bass Pro has options with more than a dozen landowners to buy about 200 acres in the area dubbed the Crossroads of America for its proximity to the intersection of I-75 and the Ohio Turnpike. The proposed site borders I-75 to the west, State Rt. 795 to the north, and Crossroads Parkway to the east.

Also this week, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said it would kick in $1 million to help Bass Pro develop an outdoor wildlife education and interpretive center. The money would come from hunting and fishing license fees and from Ohio's share of a federal excise tax on hunting and fishing equipment.

"I'm very excited about this," Mr. Brown said. "This is something that will clearly pay dividends to Wood County and Rossford and northwest Ohio and the state for years and years to come."

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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