The taxpayers of Little Falls, Minnesota have a big heart. They respond to need when they see it. So when Wal-Mart, which only made $11.2 billion in profits last year, approached the Little Falls City Council for financial help, the Council gave them what they wanted. City officials dug deep to help foot the bill for two road projects that will help Wal-Mart customers get to their superstore more easily. Wal-Mart wants to build a 207,203 s.f. superstore in Little Falls, but they must have come up a little short on the financing, because they asked the city to pitch in for a $1.8 million improvement to Highway 27, plus another $1.9 million to 18th. street. This struck City Councilor Mike LeMieur a little strange, knowing that Wal-Mart is the world’s largest retailer, with net sales of $312.4 billion this past year, a 9.4% increase, or $27 billion more than 2005. But shoppers need to get to their Wal-Mart, and the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Wal-Mart and the city will share the cost for the two projects. LeMieur didn’t think the city should have to fork over the money, and said the state and Wal-Mart should pay for the roadwork. But he was outvoted. City taxpayers, including the little businesses in Little Falls, will pay $450,000 to help people get to Wal-Mart on Highway 27. State taxpayers will pony up $1 million, and Wal-Mart agreed to pay $350,000, or 19% of the cost. City taxpayers will also pay another $1.4 million on the 18th Street Northeast project, and Wal-Mart will pay $522,124, or 27% of the cost. Little Falls officials said the total $1,850,000 that the city will pay could be recouped from the property taxes generated by the superstore, or other future developments in that area. The city also could impose a “special assessment” or take the money from the city’s state aid gas funds. When the Wal-Mart store is built, it will pay $179,080 a year in property taxes. In effect, Little Falls has given Wal-Mart the equivalent of ten years free rent.
Let’s hope that other merchants in Little Falls are not paying attention, but are too busy minding the store. First thing you know, they will want the roads leading to their stores improved. Corporate welfare should only be reserved for those who truly need it. Welfare as we know it has changed. It now helps to be a huge corporation. Wal-Mart makes about $1.28 million in profits every hour of every day. But Highway 27 would have strained them. It’s better this way. The citizens and merchants of Little Falls can now proudly claim: we helped build a road to help a needy business. For earlier hand outs on this same theme, search Newsflash by “corporate welfare.”