A proposed Wal-Mart store in Hartford, Wisconsin has generated significant opposition in that community. On September 17, 2006, Sprawl-Busters reported that residents in Hartford had organized to prevent an annexation of land for a Wal-Mart. Their battle began in late February 2006 when 1,000 residents, business owners and concerned “others” signed a NO to Annexation/Wal-mart petition. The petition asked the city to do economic, environmental, and traffic studies before allowing the project to continue. The Common Council eventually voted 7-2 in March, 2006 in favor of the annexation, and the city was thrown into political unrest, with a couple of ugly recall battles along the way. This week, Greater Milwaukee Today reports that Doug Cunning-ham, a former Nebraska senator and independent grocer, spoke at a meeting of the Hartford Citizens for Responsible Government. Cunningham warned that Wal-Mart is trying to get further into the banking and real estate business, and one day could control politics through its contributions and “education” of employees on how to vote, He argued that Wal-Mart offers only low-wage jobs, using high-pressure tactics with manufacturers and destroying small businesses. “It’ll be a disaster when they start controlling the money,” said Cunningham, who is a director of the Nebraska-based Hometown Merchants Association. Cunningham said that in 16 of Wisconsin’s counties that have Wal-Marts and optional county sales taxes, 10 saw faster growth in the previous five years before Wal-Mart came to town. Figures in the other five communities that have Wal-Marts are not yet available, because the company has been in those areas for less than a year. “When we spend our money locally, it’s recycled three to seven times in the community. When we spend it at Wal-Mart, that money, except for wages, is wired out of town,” Cunningham explained. “People need to get involved or they are going to get what they deserve,” said Cunningham. “One thing residents can do is educate the rest of the public not to shop there. It’s the consumer that’s guilty. We need to preserve the business we have.”
Despite Wal-Mart’s incursion into Hartford, the retailer has been having trouble elsewhere in the state. The Small Business Times reports that in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the city’s Plan Commission recently rejected a proposed Wal-Mart supercenter. City officials say they are concerned that a massive new Wal-Mart store would lead to other retailers going out of business, resulting in several vacant commercial buildings in the community. Wal-Mart gave up on plans to build a store in Franklin, Wisconsin because of community opposition. Wal-Mart plans to begin construction soon on a store in the Town of Sheboygan, which was a very controversial project that was only approved after about two years of debate.