"Bass Pro Shops Lures 1,500 Applicants." That was the big story in the Valley Morning Star of Harlingen, Texas, last week. There's a new Bass Pro Shop store opening in that Rio Grande Valley city, and more than 1,500 job-seekers lined up to apply for work.
The Bass Pro Shop in Harlingen will hire 450 people. Some of the jobs are minimum wage; some are much higher. The bottom line is that 450 people will have new jobs in Harlingen when the store opens.
The Bass Pro/Pyramid deal in Memphis is on a much larger scale. Construction on retrofitting the Pyramid is projected to create 1,665 jobs. The store itself will hire 560 people, full- and part-time. The attendant reinvigoration of the nearby Pinch District should stimulate those businesses and bring in new ones. Again, that means jobs, which means tax revenue, which is good news for Memphis.
Much of the cynicism about the Bass Pro deal comes from a misunderstanding of the nature of the new tenant in the Pyramid. It's a glorified "bait shop," say critics. It'll just draw rednecks and hicks. This criticism, I suspect, would not be happening if, say, Macy's had decided to move into that big pointy building.
That's missing the point. This Bass Pro development is not comparable to a department store. It's way beyond a simple retail establishment. Department stores don't have an indoor cypress swamp with alligators, fish, ducks, gar, and a kayak run. They don't have a mezzanine with a fishing platform, a fly-fishing shop, an arcade, a snake pit, a dining deck, an aviary, lots of boats, and a harbor dock where you can take one out for a test cruise.
This project will draw fresh money into Memphis. Bass Pro says 4 million people a year visit its flagship store in Springfield, Missouri — which isn't exactly on the beaten path. Similar numbers in Memphis would provide a serious boost to the local economy.
This is a potentially huge game-changer for the area, and it's a perfect complement to the casino and music tourism we already get. We need to get over the elitist attitude and embrace the opportunity. Bass Pro isn't Sidney Shlenker redux. This is a hugely successful national company that's moving to town. If they want to paint the Pyramid camo, I'm okay with it, if it puts people to work.