How A Small Nebraska Town Figures Into The Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops Deal

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Some companies have distinct ties to their geographical roots, whether it’s Walmart and Bentonville, L.L.Bean and Maine, Hershey and, well.. Hershey, or Cabela’s and the small Nebraska city of Sidney. But now that the outdoor goods retailer has been snapped up by Bass Pro Shops for $5.5 billion, what will happen to this town of around 7,000 people?

Much like the residents of Hershey worried after Mondelez made an unsolicited — and ultimately unsuccessful — bid to buy its namesake The Hershey Company, those living in the small town of Sidney in western Nebraska are questioning what the future holds.

What started as a small family-run catalog retailer grew over four decades to become the operator of megastores throughout the U.S., bringing in billions of dollars in sales each year, The Wall Street Journal reports.

“When Cabela’s thrives, the town thrives,” one resident said Tuesday.

The city has long embraced its relationship to Cabela’s. Sidney’s water tower proclaims “Cabela’s World Headquarters,” the founding family still lives in the town, and the company’s annual shareholders meeting often takes place at the local high school. And Cabela’s has embraced the city right back, employing more than 2,000 people from Sidney and surrounding areas, as well as operating a call center and distribution center in the town.

When news of the $5.5 billion deal broke, city and state officials held an emergency meeting to formulate a plan to meet with Bass Pro Shop executives, the WSJ reports.

The team, Sidney mayor Mark Nienhueser says, will work to encourage “Bass Pro to keep or even move jobs to Sidney, and we’re going to move very aggressively to do that with them.”

Governor Pete Ricketts’ office tells the WSJ that the state has offered support to the city as it works to “demonstrate Nebraska’s competitive advantages to Bass Pro. Bass Pro has not outlined a transition plan at this time.”

When announcing the deal on Monday, Bass Pro Shops said its newly combined headquarters would be located in its own hometown, Springfield, MO. Still, the company said it would “maintain important bases of operations in Sidney” and that it “hopes to continue the very favorable connections to those communities and the Cabela’s team members residing there.”

In a letter sent to employees after the announcement, the WSJ reports, Cabela’s CEO Thomas Millner said that Bass Pro understands and respects the important of the company’s Nebraska roots.”

Despite the reassurances, residents and business owners worry that if the headquarters moves, so will the influx of new townspeople.

“I think everybody will,” one business owner tells the WSJ of the possibility that business will suffer. “from the employees who lose their jobs down to the gas stations. All of a sudden, they’re not going to be selling as much gas, it’s going to impact everyone.”

Cabela’s Deal Spurs Uncertainty for Small Nebraska Town [The Wall Street Journal]

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