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Cabela's Announcement Set For Wednesday

August 15, 2006
By DAN UHLINGER, Courant Staff Writer

Gov. M. Jodi Rell plans to appear with officials from East Hartford, Cabela's and United Technologies Corp. Wednesday at Rentschler Field to announce an agreement for building the first Cabela's outdoors merchandise store in New England.

The officials have been working on the agreement and a financial incentive plan with the state since last summer, when Cabela's said it wanted to build a 200,000-square-foot superstore at Rentschler.

The store is expected to open late next summer and would anchor the retail area in the mixed-use development proposed for about 650 acres at Rentschler Field, where the University of Connecticut football stadium is located.

The announcement, scheduled for 10 a.m., is expected to be made shortly after the Connecticut Development Authority is scheduled to vote on Cabela's request for a $9.9 million state grant.

Officials were so confident that the grant would be approved because of an economic impact study of Cabela's that they decided to hold a press conference for the announcement and invite dozens of officials.

Judd Everhart, a spokesman for Rell, would not give specific details of Rell's speech but confirmed her planned appearance.

"Gov. Rell expects to participate in a very important announcement that will have a positive long-term impact on Connecticut's economy," he said.

East Hartford Mayor Melody A. Currey, who plans to speak at the press conference, would not disclose details of the agreement or financial incentives.

Officials for UTC, which owns Rentschler Field, and Cabela's could not be reached for comment.

An official who did not want to be identified said the agreement included infrastructure improvements at Rentschler Field and who would make them and pay for them.

Rep. Christopher Stone, D-East Hartford, said that having the press conference scheduled was a "powerful" statement that the Cabela's store would be built.

Ronald F. Angelo Jr., deputy commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development, said officials were looking forward to the announcement.

"A number of parties have worked tremendously hard over the past several years and we hope at this point we're ready to move forward and begin the development process with Cabela's," Angelo said.

A Cabela's executive in June said approval of the state grant was a critical part of the company's decision to move forward with project plans.

The Connecticut Development Authority in March commissioned a study of the financial benefits of a Cabela's being located at Rentschler. The authority received the study recently but would not disclose it Monday.

Cabela's has also been negotiating financial incentives with state development officials.

In its grant application with the Connecticut Development Authority, Cabela's said it generated $1.5 billion in sales in 2004. Under the financing program for the grant, the state would authorize $9.9 million in bonds to fund the grant to Cabela's. Sales taxes generated by the new store would be used to pay off the bond principal and interest.

James F. Abromaitis, state economic and community development commissioner, who sits on the authority's board, said earlier this year that Cabela's is "a significant cash generator" and the new store at Rentschler would benefit the Hartford area.

A UConn study of the Rentschler Field project said it would create 6,000 to 8,000 jobs and generate $40 million in state revenue and $57 million in local taxes annually. The project would consist primarily of technological research offices but also include hotels, medical and sports facilities, housing, entertainment and stores.

Cabela's, based in Sidney, Neb., has 12 stores throughout the country and boasts of being able to attract 3 million to 4 million shoppers annually - many from more than 100 miles away - to a typical store. As a testament to the company's ability to draw tourists, states and municipalities have given more than $300 million in economic incentives to lure the company to their areas.

Fearing they would miss an opportunity for much-needed development, East Hartford Town Council members last summer approved $6.7 million in tax abatements to coax Cabela's to locate at Rentschler.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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