The City Manager in Bozeman, Montana wants Wal-Mart to pay for the damage its supercenter will bring to his town. The bill comes to a staggering $25 million, according to a story by the Associated Press. Although City Manager Clark Johnson tallied the damage at $25 million, Wal-Mart only saw the need to offer the community $10,000 for the impact it would have on the local economy. The city is concerned that Wal-Mart will trigger the closure of many local merchants downtown. The town is trying to get the world’s largest company to pay for important improvements to the downtown to prevent economic dislocation. Most of the money (84%) is for the addition of 1,700 parking spaces downtown, but the Manager has asked for $2.7 million for affordable housing (for the low-wage Wal-Mart workforce?), $60,000 for a cooperative marketing program with local stores, $540,000 for a shuttle bus from the Wal-Mart to the downtown, and $385,000 for trails, sidewalks and bike paths connecting the sprawl-mart to the downtown. All these improvements are designed to prevent the supercenter from becoming an isolated world apart from the existing downtown. “The point is to try and tie the downtown back to the super center,” Johnson told the AP.
Last September, the city commissioners voted to approve Wal-Mart’s expansion plans, allowing an 80,000 square foot add on — but conditional on steps being taken to soften the impact of the superstore on the Bozeman economy. In 2000, an economic-impact study, paid for by Wal Mart, and written by San Francisco based Bay Area Economics, indicated that 58% of the 240 “new” jobs at Wal-Mart would be offset by the loss of jobs elsewhere in the community, leaving a net of 100 jobs, or 42% of the total Wal-Mart claimed. When Wal-Mart first tried to expand its store in Bozeman, city officials passed a moratorium on stores of more than 50,000 square feet. Unfortunately, Bozeman dropped the restriction when Wal-Mart agreed to pay for the economic study. Now the city is trying to get that study to really pay off for the city, but Wal-Mart isn’t paying. The city should have just capped store size at 100,000 s.f. and walked away happy.
For more information about the economic impact study conducted in Bozeman, and the unflattering results it yielded, go to the Newsflash entry for 11/28/00, or search this database by “Bozeman”.