There are two Wal-Mart supercenters within 18 miles of Fabius, Michigan, but two local communities want another one so much, they are willing to share the tax revenues to saturate their community, and kill off more local businesses. According to the Kalamazoo Gazette, the Fabius Board of Trustees are asking for more time to read through an agreement that would “temporarily transfer” nearly 36 acres of land to Three Rivers, Michigan, to allow the latter to hook up a 186,000 s.f. Wal-Mart supercenter to the city’s water. The Three Rivers City Commission approved the plan recently and Fabius was ready to sign on, but because Three Rivers made some last-minute changes to the pact and Fabius officials want to review it. “We both want to get each other on the same page,” a Fabius official told the Gazette. “It’s not like we’re fighting or anything. We want things, and they want things, and we just have to get there together.” Under the 25-year agreement, Fabius Township would receive a portion of the tax revenue from the property tax to be paid by Wal-Mart to Three Rivers. The township also would be able to freeze its annual contribution to the Three Rivers Library. The supercenter will have a discount store, a grocery entrance, a Tire and Lube Express and a drive-through pharmacy. All of these operations would help reduce similar existing businesses already in Three Rivers and Fabius.
It is truly remarkable how communities will bend over backwards to bring in a huge store that will supplant existing economic activity. Town and city officials may see some advantage to taking sales away from the Sturgis, Michigan and Elkhart, Indiana supercenters that are just a short drive away, but the only revenue mentioned was property tax, which won’t make much of a dent in either community’s operating budget. Perhaps Fabius and Three Rivers would be willing to split the lost tax revenues from other commercial properties in either community that will fail. The 25 year life span of this deal is also suspect, since the likelihood that Wal-Mart will still be inside that store 25 years from now is very small. But local officials believe they are “creating” jobs and revenue from this project, yet they have no economic impact analysis that tells them that. They mistake a new building going up with economic growth — but unfortunately they are not the same thing. Fabius residents should call their Trustees and urge them to look at the numbers before “temporarily” giving 36 acres of land to another community, just to build another supercenter for which there is no market need in the first place.