Wal-Mart continues to use its Foundation’s donations aggressively to pass out grants that will help local officials look favorably on its growth plans in their communities.
Case in point: The Milwaukee Business Journal reported recently that Wal-Mart has given $1 million to a group ironically called “Growing Power, Inc.” The stated purpose of the funding is to help the organization pay for staff, training and education at food center sites in 15 states — but the unstated purpose of the grant is to spread goodwill for Wal-Mart at a time when it is attempting to harvest a basketfull of new stores in the greater Milwaukee area.
Growing Power founder, Will Allen, hosted Wal-Mart at his business on September 9th to conduct a joint media conference. Allen told reporters, “In rough times like today, everyone should have access to healthy and affordable food. What better way to obtain this food than growing it yourself or getting it from a local farmer?” Wal-Mart said the Growing Power grant represents a portion of the Wal-Mart Foundation’s commitment of $2 billion to combat hunger in the United States.
But the large donation to the food group came just as Wal-Mart has announced that it hopes to build 15 or more stores in southeast Wisconsin over the next few years. Wal-Mart has submitted plans for new stores in Menomonee Falls, Wauwatosa, Milwaukee, Caledonia, Mount Pleasant, Greendale, Kenosha and West Milwaukee.
The ‘Growing Power’ grant came from the Wal-Mart Foundation’s National Giving Program. The retailer held a press conference last week at the headquarters of Growing Power at the Milwaukee organization’s headquarters.
At the same time, the Milwaukee Journal reports that new Wal-Mart stores planned for South Milwaukee, Wauwatosa and Greenfield, Wisconsin all have moved forward. Not only are these projects being fast-tracked, but in some communities, they are subsidizing Wal-Mart to make it happen.
In South Milwaukee, city officials have approved a proposal to give a Wal-Mart developer based in Tennessee $1.8 million in welfare, in the form a tax incremental financing (TIF) district. A developer called Gatlin Development Company, which has been followed by controversy in almost every Wal-Mart site it has proposed, is planning to build a 115,000 s.f. store on 10 acres in South Milwaukee. Property taxes from the superstore would be paid back to the city over nine years. One part of the land being purchased by Gatlin is owned by the city, but more than half if owned by an investment group. In effect, city revenue is being used for environmental clean up on the site.
In Wauwatosa, a 63,000-square-foot former Jewel-Osco store is being remodeled for a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market that will take up 35,000 s.f. of the site.
In Greenfield, the Journal says that a former golf course has been sold to the Wal-Mart Real Estate Business Trust in preparation for a 140,000-s.f. Wal-Mart supermarket and discount store. When this store opens, Wal-Mart will shut down another of its stores located just to the north of this site.
Readers are urged to contact Growing Power, Inc. founder Will Allen at : [email protected] with the following message: “By accepting Wal-Mart money, Growing Power is directly endorsing the growing power of Wal-Mart over the grocery industry, the food supply chain, and farm production.
Wal-Mart is a chain store: at every link along the chain, someone is being exploited: from the prison labor in Arizona that picks their melons, to the Chinese production workers who make most of their products, to the local grocer who has gone out of business entirely.
Hundreds of family-owned and regional grocery stores have gone out of business as Wal-Mart consolidates its control over the food industry. Local agricultural products have been passed over many times in preference for larger, agri-business suppliers. Unionized grocery stores have closed, throwing thousands of people out of work.
Growing Power does not need handouts from Wal-Mart to survive. Wal-Mart has not been good for local farmers, and has not been good for local merchants. Wal-Mart is using its donations to your organization to promote its growing power in Wisconsin. You have endorsed a business model built on exploitation. You will be more powerful without Wal-Mart.”
Wal-Mart continues to use its Foundatios donations aggressively to pass out grants that will help local officials look favorably on its growth plans in their communities.