Council member likens OKC Cabela's deal to extortion

Council member likens OKC Cabela's deal to extortion

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Should Oklahoma City spend your tax dollars to bring in big business?

It's the question at the center of the argument over a new 80,000 sq ft Cabela's store announced last week for Western and the Turnpike.

One city council member is even calling the plan extortion.

"The idea that someone is exacting or getting money from an institution from coercion or threats, it has the spirit of extortion," said Ward 2 Council member Ed Shadid.

Oklahoma City plans to offer Cabela's $3.5 million to ensure the outdoor outfitter sets up shop within city limits.

"Our policy is fear-based," Shadid said in a Skype call from Lawton, "we're incentivizing things that are likely to be happening anyway."

FOX 25's Rebecca Schleicher asked city Economic Development Manger Brent Bryant to explain to taxpayers why he thinks the incentive is a good move for the city.

"Oklahoma City lives and dies by sales tax," he said.

Sales tax accounts for a quarter of the city's general fund. And Cabela's expects to rake in more than $40 million a year, which is why the city wants it here.

"Which helps us pay for essential city services like police and fire and parks and streets," Bryant said.

Cabela's will be the fourth store to ever get the city sales tax incentives. According to Bryant, Bass Pro Shops in Bricktown received $17 million, including its downtown facility, the Outlet Shoppes at Oklahoma City received $5.5 million plus an additional $4 million in infrastructure and Van Maur received $2 million.

Bryant says he expects Cabela's to make the city $800,000 a year in taxes.

When the store announced it's plan, a spokesperson from Cabela's would not discuss anything about the incentives.

"For competitive reasons I can't really speak to details about any contractual agreements," said Nathan Borowski with the Cabela's corporate office.

And the question remains: does the city need to spend tax dollars in order to make tax dollars?

"At the end of the day this just looks like a game of chicken," Schleicher said to Bryant, "would they come here without the incentive?"

"I believe that they would not come here," Bryant responded, "I believe that they would come to an outlying suburban area."

Shadid was the only council member to vote against moving forward with negotiations regarding the plan this week.

The city council will vote on the final agreement July 1.

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