LINCOLN — On Thursday, in response to attacks by Democrat gubernatorial candidate Bob Krist, Gov. Pete Ricketts issued the following statement:
“The circumstances leading to the sale of Cabela’s were private decisions made between private-sector companies, which no governor has the power to direct. Working with the community, we’ve done everything in our power to support Cabela’s employees and Sidney. We worked with the city of Sidney to present to Bass Pro Shops the case for retaining Nebraska workers after the sale was announced. Our Department of Labor proactively opened a Sidney office to assist displaced workers in finding their next opportunity. My office and the Department of Economic Development have worked to attract new jobs from companies like Agri-Plastics and Lukjan Metal Products as well as Xpanxion, which announced hundreds of new jobs in Sidney just this week,” said Ricketts. “We’re keeping our commitment to impacted Nebraskans and to Sidney.”
On Thursday, Krist accused Ricketts and the Ricketts family of accepting donations from the Wall Street investor whose firm forced the breakup and sale of Cabela’s in 2017. Krist said the investor, Paul Springer, had given the governor’s campaign $35,000 along with donations to political action committees organized by the governor’s father, Joe Ricketts, and Ricketts family members.
Krist said Springer’s donations totaled $7.9 million.
Ricketts campaign said the governor has been committed to the people of Sidney from the beginning.
“The people of Sidney know the governor’s No. 1 priority throughout this process has been retaining and creating Sidney job opportunities. He has gone above and beyond to grow Nebraska and to support Sidney through this transition,” said Ricketts campaign spokesman Matthew Trail. “The community of Sidney won’t be used as a political prop in Bob Krist’s desperate, dishonest attacks.”
When the sale of Cabela’s to Bass Pro Shops was announced, then-Sidney Mayor Mike Nienhueser said of Ricketts, “We’re pleased that he’s been so proactive.”
An Omaha World-Herald article noted, “Nienhueser said he was pleased by Ricketts’ quick response to the community following Monday’s announcement that Bass Pro was acquiring Cabela’s.”
During last week’s gubernatorial debate at the Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island, Krist asked Ricketts what he knew about the impending sale of Cabela’s to Bass Pro Shops and why he didn’t do more to stop it.
According to the Grand Island Independent, Ricketts responded he didn’t have knowledge about the sale and it was a “private sector transaction.”
In a campaign press release today, Ricketts said he advocated for the community of Sidney for three years, since speculation about a Cabela’s sale began.
The Ricketts’ campaign provided this timeline:
- In 2015, Ricketts made offers of state support to Cabela’s CEO Tommy Millner to help make the company more competitive.
- When the sale to Bass Pro was announced in 2016, the governor convened a group of stakeholders to talk about strategies to support the community during the transition.
- Following the sale, the governor led successful efforts to make the case to Bass Pro to keep jobs in Nebraska.
- The governor directed the Nebraska Department of Labor to open a new office in Sidney to help connect its workforce with new opportunities.
- The governor has worked with state and local agencies to successfully attract new employers to the community of Sidney.
Krist called the Cabela’s sale a Nebraska tragedy because 2,000 jobs were lost and the Panhandle continues to feel the adverse effects.
According to Krist, Sidney has 135 houses listed for sale and Cheyenne County’s property values have declined 10 percent to 14 percent and Sidney’s population of 6,800 is down 400 people.