It's no sure thing that Dick's Sporting Goods is coming to Batavia.
First, there's no official confirmation that Dick's is the client COR Development Company has secured for the former Lowe's location.
Second, Charlie Cook, chairman of the Genesee County Economic Development Center Board, said it's far from a done deal that COR will receive more than $1 million in tax incentives to prepare the 138,778-square-foot space for a new tenant, whoever that may be.
If Dick's is the new game in town, local sporting outlets say they're ready for the competition; they just hope it's a level playing field.
The GCEDC board has yet to officially approve a trio of tax incentives for COR. The only action yesterday was to approve a public hearing for the project, which hasn't even been scheduled yet.
The board has been given scant information about COR's plans, Cook said, and without more information, the board isn't ready to act on the proposal.
"There is no commitment from the EDC for any sort of tax breaks or funding and there won’t be until we have a lot more information," Cook said.
This is the first big retail project that has come before the GCEDC board since Cook's been a member, he said, so he wants to educate himself on what projects like this mean for existing businesses before making a decision.
"I’m still learning," Cook said. "I’ve learned some things on the fly here and have been educated a bit on the impacts that some retailers might have that I hadn’t thought of. I haven’t formed an opinion yet."
Two months ago, a source told The Batavian Dick's Sporting Goods was planning a store at the former Lowe's location; however, repeated phone calls and e-mails to Dick's corporate office since then have been ignored by the corporate giant.
Dick's is a publicly traded company founded in Binghamton and now has 511 stores in 44 states. Annual sales in 2011 (the most recent numbers available) were $5.2 billion with a net profit of $1.6 billion, for a profit margin of 30.6 percent.
Those big numbers mean local retailers selling outdoors equipment and sporting goods face competition from a well-financed behemoth with significant market power.
That isn't scaring at least two local retailers who sell some of the same merchandise as Dick's, but the local owners are unhappy that a giant corporation like Dick's could benefit from any tax incentives given to COR.
Mike Barrett likened the practice of using tax incentives going to corporate chains to "using your own tax money to put yourself out of business."
Still, Barrett's Batavia Marine -- founded in 1955 by his father and uncle -- has been in the same location for decades and Barrett has seen a lot of upstarts come and go.
"We can compete in a lot of different levels they can’t," Barrett said. "Price is one thing and service is another. I knew about this coming for about a year, but we’ve outlasted a lot of other people, so … (Barrett shrugged)"
Kurt Fisher, whose store Fisher Sports is less than two years old, thinks he's found a local niche to serve and his new location in the Court Plaza (off Court Street) is doing well.
He isn't even particularly worried about Dick's potential for offering lower prices.
"The bigger issue for us would be they have more opportunity to have more stock because they have more money to bring everything into the store from every company," Fisher said. "We don't have that opportunity. Olympia (on Lewiston Road) doesn't have that opportunity. They (Dick's) can fill the store with everything, but that doens't mean their prices are good. That's their story everywhere. They have full stores but that doesn't mean they have the best price."
Fisher is ready to compete head-to-head with Dick's, but he doesn't think tax incentives should be used to give a big chain an advantage over local businesses.
"For the town and city to do that, it tells me they're more worried about the Big Box people compared to the smaller business people, for sure," Fisher said. "We don't get tax breaks and we're already in business."
Before today, Charlie Cook said he had no idea that Dick's was the potential tenant for COR. He doesn't even know now if the information is true. He said the GCEDC board was told the confidentially agreement prohibited even the GCEDC board being told who the tenant might be at this stage, even in closed session.
Who the tenant is could be critical information for the board to consider before approving incentives for COR, Cook said.
"I am interested in protecting existing businesses," Cook said. "I think when the facts come out, and more names are divulged (there could be more than one retailer moving into the former Lowe's location), if something isn't going to have an impact on local retailers and actually has attributes that benefit the local economy, you have to look at that differently than a business that competes directly with somebody down the street. Until we know more, we can't make that judgement."
Cook also acknowledged that taxpayers may have legitimate concerns to consider about COR receiving new tax incentives after receiving tax incentives in 2007 to construct the curent building for Lowe's, but "what it comes down to is we're staring at a big empty building and how can we put it to the best use."