A Wal-Mart developer in Charlotte, North Carolina is looking for a handout. In fact, he’s looking for a half million dollar tax bailout in order to give Charlotte another Wal-Mart supercenter. There are currently “only” eight Wal-Mart stores in Charlotte, half of them are supercenters. So another Wal-Mart for Charlotte is akin to bringing coals to Newcastle, or swallows to Capistrano. The idea of the public having to pay for the privilege of having another Wal-Mart is adding insult to injury. The Charlotte Business Journal reports this week that the developer, Faison and Associates, has asked city taxpayers to pony up $500,000 for a Wal-Mart supercenter in the abandoned Amity Gardens Shopping Center. Faison says it doesn’t have enough money to pay for a road connecting the project to the abutting Coliseum Shopping Center. This boondoggle was first announced in 2006, when the city gave the land in question a rezoning. The zoning change allowed a mix of retail and other commercial uses for the property, but Faison is building only the 155,000-s.f. Wal-Mart superstore. City officials seems to be happy to subsidize this wealthy developer and the world’s richest retailer, because the project represents a $25 million investment in the city. So what’s the big deal if taxpayers have to toss in $400,000 for road construction, and another $100,000 to clean up contamination on the site? There is no way that Wal-Mart could afford to chip in — their budget has been blown on image advertising and lobbying contributions. Developer Henry Faison has been described as one of Charlotte’s most prolific developers. Faison told the city he has to have the corporate welfare for a special road to the property, and for environmental cleanup. The developer reportedly could not tell the city the total cost for the cleanup — he only knows it’s more than he wants to spend. Faison and Wal-Mart have poor-mouthed the city, and gone on the dole to protect their profits.
The city council did not need to be urged to charge this cost to city taxpayers. Americans like to complain about all the deadbeats on welfare — but Wal-Mart has drawn down millions of dollars in such subsidies without even blushing. Readers are urged to email the Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory at [email protected] with the following message: “Dear Mayor McCrory, Did you know that according to Good Jobs First Wal-Mart has benefited ‘from more than $1 billion in economic development subsidies from state and local governments across the United States.’ The Washington, D.C. based research group released a 65 page report in 2004, ‘Shopping for Subsidies’, which found more than 240 cases in which the building of a Wal-Mart store was helped by corporate welfare. That was 4 years ago. The number of welfare grabs is much higher today. The report concluded: ‘Wal-Mart presents itself as an entrepreneurial success story, yet it has made extensive use of tax breaks, free land, cash grants, and other forms of public assistance.’ The report recommended that ‘states prohibit subsidies to retailers such as Wal-Mart unless strict conditions are met.’ Such restrictions include using subsidies only in economically distressed areas which are underserved by retail outlets, and only when retailers are required to pay their workers a living wage. Here is Charlotte giving Wal-Mart a welfare subsidy, while the retailer has done a number on the textile industry in North Carolina, shipping thousands of manufacturing jobs from North Carolina to China. As a reward, cities like Charlotte thank them with tax subsidies. The general rule of thumb in Charlotte should be that if neither the developer nor the retailer can financially swing the deal on their own dollar, then the project is not worth subsidizing. It would be different if we were talking about decent-paying industrial jobs — but not low wage retail. This is a misuse of taxpayer dollars, and I hope Charlotte will pass an ordinance banning the use of city tax dollars to subsidize retail projects. This is not a $25 million investment in Charlotte. Once you subtract out the stores and merchants who will go under because of this superstore, you will be fortunate to break even. Perhaps its not too late to ask for your $500,000 back — and use it for your schools instead?”