If there ever was a symbolic passing of the U.S. economic torch, go to the township of Grand Blanc, Michigan, where a giant retail corporation wants to buy land once owned by the industrial giant that was the symbol of American labor. Wal-Mart wants to erect a superstore and a Sam’s Club right next to a General Motors Metal Center plant, on land once owned by the car manufacturer. And a lot of local residents would like to drive Wal-Mart right off the road. The Grand Blanc Township Board held a hearing on the 200,000 s.f. superstore project this week, and anti-Wal-Mart activists showed up. One resident asked the Township Board to consider placing a cap on the size of buildings within the so-called Heritage Park shopping center that Wal-Mart would anchor. The Grand Blanc Township Supervisor responded that size restrictions could keep out other retailers that residents would find desirable, according to a report in the Flint Journal. The Journal said that Wal-Mart officials have said the store will offer good jobs and that concerns about Wal-Mart pushing out local merchants are based on “misconceptions.”
What “misconception” was it that nearly destroyed Michigan-based Kmart, which has entered into a double-suicide pact with Sears? What “misconception” caused residents in Charlevoix and Pittsfield, Michigan to fight tooth and nail to keep Wal-Mart out? The fact is, any community in Michigan can place a cap on the size of buildings, and Wal-Mart is not a government mandate. The Heritage Park project, which could reach as much as 650,000 s.f., is too intense a land use for the area, and will generate significant costs the Township Board has not calculated. The juxtaposition of a GM plant with a Wal-Mart supercenter is ironic, given the fact that the retailer has replaced GM as the largest employer in America, and Wal-Mart’s outsourcing of products to China has in large measure led to the loss of millions of American manufacturing jobs. The decline of GM and the rise of Wal-Mart is the big story of the U.S. economy in recent decades.