One Wal-Mart is one more than enough for Montevideo, Minnesota. One local merchant sent the following letter to the editor of his local newspaper, with a copy to Sprawl-Busters: “Our city council members passed a motion to support a proposal to re-zone property east of town to allow a Wal-Mart Super center to be built. I would like to know what research they have done to educate themselves on what impact this 155,000 sq ft super center (that is almost 2 ?? times bigger than the current Wal-Mart) will have on this and surrounding communities? Is their decision merely a personal agenda? Two of the council members have adult children that work there. Isn’t this a conflict of interest? Another council member, I believe, is upset with the downtown retailers that were in favor of two-way traffic. Whose best interest do they have in mind? Montevideo is not a growing community. Growth comes from industry, manufacturing, colleges, etc. Not from retail. A super center in this community will not be economic development, it will be economic displacement. Some people think a Wal-Mart super center will be a draw to this community. What happens when all of the communities around us have a Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart Super center, Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market or a Sam’s Club? When this happens — and it will — that draw is gone and they will have most of the retail dollars. A former district manager of Wal-Mart Supercenters in a seminar once said Wal-Mart wants a facility in all communities within 25 miles of each other. Wal-Mart employees (according to one of their high school employees) were paid to attend our recent city council meeting. They talked about how community-oriented they are. As a past Montevideo Area Chamber of Commerce board member and past president, Wal-Mart has never been a consistent member. Some quarters they pay their chamber dues and some quarters they do not. In the past they have gone more than a year without being a chamber member. Wal-Mart employees talked about the donations they give to the community. County Market has given back to the community in dollars and time that would equal what they have done, and we are just a little family-owned and employee-owned business. Wal-Mart is the largest and most profitable company in the world. Donations, if in proportion, should be in the hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars to the community. We pride ourselves on being able to provided a good wage, benefits, 401(K) for our employees to live a good middle class life style. Thirty seven
percent of our staff are full time at forty plus hours, not twenty eight hours as described as Wal-Mart’s full time. We do not encourage employees to survive on a lower wages and government-funded health care or welfare. Do we want to lower our standards of our community? Do we want to pay more taxes to support Wal-Mart employees? I asked the city council to take responsibility to investigate this matter before a final decision is made. If you the council decide to allow this super center you will change the lives of people forever. Some business will close and some people will be laid off. People may have to move out of town, take their kids out of our schools and leave their churches. If you decide not to allow a super center it will hurt no one. We will still have a Wal-Mart to shop at and Wal-Mart employees will still have their jobs. We all need to think about this.
Joel Olson, County Market
Most small town merchants are afraid to be as plain-spoken about this issue as Joel Olson. A study by Retail Forward, a consulting group in Ohio, found that for every one Wal-Mart supercenter that opens, two existing area grocery stores will close. For local contacts in Montevideo, email [email protected]