SIDNEY, Neb. — Gov. Pete Ricketts emerged from a meeting with officials here on Tuesday saying the purchase of Cabela’s by Missouri-based Bass Pro Shops doesn’t necessarily mean that jobs will be lost in Nebraska.
“I think we’ve got some work to do to present the case, but that’s why I’m here today in Sidney to talk to the mayor and others to put together that team that will approach Bass Pro with all the things we have to offer here,” Ricketts said.
“Certainly we know there’s going to disruption and uncertainty,” he said. “But we’re going to work with local officials and state officials on how we can minimize that disruption as much as possible.
“We want to bring as much of Bass Pro’s business here, and keeping as much of Cabela’s business here, and presenting why this is a great place for Bass Pro to do business.”
Economic incentives will be part of the pitch presented to Bass Pro by a “transition team” of local and state officials, the governor said. Amenities in Sidney also will be touted. Those, he said, includes a dedicated and educated workforce, a new hospital and a host of businesses that support Cabela’s, a homegrown company that employs about 2,000 locally.
“We want to show Bass Pro that this is a tremendous place to do business, and we want to earn their business,” the governor said.
Ricketts said he had talked with Bass Pro founder and CEO Johnny Morris for 20 to 30 minutes on Monday and was encouraged by what he heard.
“I told him about my personal experience, that when you hire Nebraskans you get someone who’s well-educated, who’s got a great work ethic and is loyal and customer-focused,” Ricketts said. “We want to make Nebraska a partner with Bass Pro as they grow their business.”
Morris, he said, didn’t make any commitments. But Ricketts said the Bass Pro founder appreciates and respects Cabela’s brand and wants to make it part of the long-term growth of the company.
Ricketts met for nearly a hour with a contingent of local officials, including Sidney Mayor Mark Nienhueser.
Nienhueser said he was pleased by Ricketts’ quick response to the community following Monday’s announcement that Bass Pro was acquiring Cabela’s. That, he said, included the talk with Morris and the trip Tuesday to Sidney.
“We’re pleased that he’s been so proactive,” Nienhueser said. “We want to keep as many jobs and, if possible, get more jobs in Sidney. We’ve got a lot to offer.”
Anxiety was running high Tuesday in this community of 6,800 about six hours west of Omaha on Interstate 80. Townspeople used words like “scary” to describe their feelings over the prospect that hundreds of jobs could be lost when Bass Pro takes over and Cabela’s “World Headquarters” is no longer located in a huge, green-roofed building — opened in January — along the Interstate.
One female clerk at Cabela’s retail store choked back tears when asked for her reaction to the sale.
Ricketts, a former executive with his family’s business, TD Ameritrade, said the company made acquisitions in which it actually increased employment at the home of the acquired company.
Perhaps some Bass Pro operations could be moved to Sidney, Ricketts said. He cited the purchase by TD Ameritrade of a New Jersey-based competitor, Datek Online Holdings, in 2002.
“We left the technology office there and eventually it expanded,” he said. “There’s certainly opportunities here.”