On July 1, 2007, Sprawl-Busters reported that officials in Greene County, Pennsylvania had received a check for $5 million from Governor Ed Rendell. The state funds were to be used to help build a retail development called Waynesburg Crossing in the township of Franklin, which features a Wal-Mart supercenter as its anchor. The subsidy for Wal-Mart was announced during at a press conference between Governor Rendell, the Greene County Commissioners and Greene County Industrial Development Authority. County officials said that Wal-Mart planned to have the Waynesburg store open by Christmas 2007, but the company was being “overly cautious,” and delayed the opening until the spring of 2008. That date went by the boards, and county officials grew increasingly concerned about the delay. The $5 million welfare payment to Wal-Mart came from the state Department of Community and Economic Development’s Infrastructure and Facilities Improvement Program. The Governor said the $5 million would be key to providing assistance for economic development and helping retain and create jobs in Greene County. According to Rendell’s office, the $5 million would be paid out in increments of $500,000 over the span of a 10-year period. The $500,000 in funding presented at the press conference represents the first-year allocation of the grant. The funding will cover debt service on costs related to the construction of the retail development complex, which will be built on 115 acres of land across from the Greene County Airport. Funds will also be used for road construction, utility excavation and preparation, gas line preparation and waterline relocation, as well as sanitary line relocation and installation. The Governor’s office said the total retail project will be more than $35 million, and will create 1,095 jobs. “By providing the necessary grants for infrastructure improvements, environmental remediation and building costs, we are supporting economic development projects that bring new jobs and revenue to the commonwealth while helping lay the groundwork for our future economic success,” Rendell said. “Our investments in projects like these ensure Pennsylvania retains its business base and enhances our competitive edge to attract employers who are looking to locate, grow or expand here.” Waynesburg Crossings is being built by McHolme/Waynesburg LLC, which bought the site from the county in 2003. The site will include a 155,000 s.f. Wal-Mart Supercenter on 44 acres that was purchased by Wal-Mart. The retail project includes the construction of Murtha Drive, named after U.S. Congressman John P. Murtha, which will run from Route 21, and will cost nearly $7 million in state and federal funds. According to the Washington Observer Reporter newspaper, it was announced last week that the superstore will finally open on March 18, 2009. No one is happier than County Commissioner Dave Coder. “From the start,” Coder told the newspaper, “we felt it was important we have something built on this land so Greene County shoppers didn’t have to go to Morgantown (W.Va.) or Washington,” he said. The Morgantown Wal-Mart supercenter is 19 miles away, and the Washington supercenter is 20 miles away. The newspaper reports that it took $9.25 million to finish Murtha Drive for Wal-Mart, and $5 million in a state infrastructure grant for the site. So Wal-Mart received at least $14.25 million in welfare subsidies to locate in Franklin. The Observer claims that no other tenants have committed to the mall, and in an editorial comment, the newspaper said it was “imperative” that other stores sign on. “For years, relative to other tenants, we heard, when Wal-Mart commits, you will see the flood (of tenants); when Wal-Mart builds, you will see the flood; when Wal-Mart opens, you will see the flood; when Wal-Mart has been in business for a year, you will see the flood.” Without other businesses, the Observer says, “we are not so sure Wal-Mart’s survival as a singular retail attraction, can be guaranteed, especially in this economic climate.”
The only flood in Franklin township was the flood of state and federal bail-out funds that will help Wal-Mart kill off its smaller competitors.
Every American is implicated in this enormous piece of corporate welfare for the largest retailer in the world. Last year Wal-Mart made nearly $13 billion in net profits, yet it could not complete this supercenter deal without $14.25 million in corporate welfare for roadwork and site infrastructure. Other businesses in the Waynesburg area are perhaps wondering why Wal-Mart got a huge tax-supported subsidy (that the competitor businesses helped pay for), and a nice deal on publicly owned land. Readers are urged to call Greene County Commissioner David Coder at (724) 852-5223 with the following message: “Dear Commissiner Coder, The new Wal-Mart superstore at Waynesburg Crossing will open up this March — thanks to welfare from the Pennsylvania taxpayers. You boast that you led the way for this huge retail project — which will take most of its sales from other existing merchants in the area, who helped pay for the taxpayer subsidies you helped arrange for Wal-Mart. I understand now why they call it “Greene” county. End the corporate welfare for these huge retail projects, which bring no added value economically, except a handful of low-wage jobs with lousy health care benefits. Huge stores like this were not meant to be built every 10 miles. They are regional in nature. After a couple of decades at best, they are closed down and gone. Greene county can then raise taxpayer’s money to help tear them down. When you invest in retail superstores as an economic future, you make a super mistake. And you, as a Democratic lawmaker, have just given a big, fat subsidy to the company that told its workers not to vote for Barack Obama.”