Carson City, Nevada has around 53,000 residents and one dead Wal-Mart. That’s because it has two Wal-Mart supercenters, one on Market Street, and the other on Highway 395. It’s always a challenge trying to figure out what to do with an empty Wal-Mart, but city officials were thrilled when they heard that Max Baer Jr., the former TV personality had planned to use it as the site for his Beverly Hillbillies casino. Unfortunately for Carson City, Baer packed up his plans and moved to Douglas, County that is. Last May, Baer sold the empty Wal-Mart for $8.5 million to Robert Rothe, the owner of City Management Services. After paying all that money for the building, Rothe must have been tapped out. He told city officials that he could bring in a sporting goods store to the empty hulk — but he needed to go on the dole to do it. Rothe asked the city for a whopping $2 million subsidy. Mayor Marv Teixeira told the Nevada Appeal he wasn’t sure if he will vote for the proposal at the board meeting this Thursday. If he does, he told the newspaper, “It better be a hell of a deal.” The issue only needs 3 votes to pass, and according to the Appeal’s survey, there are already 3 supervisors ready to gamble on the subsidy. If the Board of Supervisors comes up with the cash, Rothe will bring in a retailer named Sportsman’s Warehouse. Rothe will get $2 million in the form of tax rebates. The store will pay sales taxes, and the city says taxpayers will get back their initial investment over the next 15 years. This same developer got another $2 million in redevelopment funds to attract a Burlington Coat Factory to Carson City. The City’s Economic Development Manager came up with the idea of a $2.5 million subsidy, but it was later trimmed back to only $2 million. Sportsman’s Warehouse seemed to city officials to be worth subsidizing, because the company could have found a cheaper store in Douglas County — just like the Beverly Hillbillies casino did. So to make the city look “greener” to developers, public welfare is the high stakes gamble in Carson City.
If Sportsman’s Warehouse moves into the empty Wal-Mart, it will have to reconstruct 55,000 s.f. of the building, which is about the size of a football field. It appears that the Burlington Coat Factory will move into the other 70,000 s.f. of the building. So altogether, taxpayers had to cough up $4 million to get these two retailers, which only offer low wage retail jobs for the area. One supervisor put it this way: “”You let that building sit there, or you can partner with someone like this developer and generate an additional $300,000 for the city … You can’t let it (the building) sit there and do nothing.” No, instead, you can turn it into a money drain for taxpayers, forcing them to forego $4 million in taxes. If the city had planned ahead, they could have required Wal-Mart to tear down the building and restore the site to its pre-development state. The taxpayers of Carson City might well be wondering: why can’t these rich developers and retailers stand on their own financially? Why does the taxpayer have to give them millions in welfare payments that smaller business don’t get? These two retailers bring little added value to Carson City, since their profits are likely to come from existing merchants — who ironically help pay for the tax rebates. What happens when the Burlington Coat Factory and the Sportsmen’s Warehouse decide they could make more profits in another location? Will these retailers even be around 15 years from now? That’s a bet that even the Beverly Hillbillies wouldn’t wager. Readers are urged to contact Mayor Teixeira at (775) 887-2101 x 1212, or email him at
[email protected] Tell the Mayor: “Don’t give rich developers and retailers welfare breaks for the old Wal-Mart building. These retailers should stand on their own financially, and not need welfare from the taxpayers. This multi-million tax rebate plan is a bad investment in return for a bunch of low-wage jobs.”