Now that Wal-Mart has grown fat again on all those U.S. government economic stimulus checks, the retailer is going back over its list of store postponements from the last year, and breathing new life into some of their low-hanging projects. One of the stores that Wal-Mart is checking twice is in Quincy, West Virginia — a state whose economy is so weak that Wal-Mart has been the largest private employer in the state for the past decade, with 13, 265 workers today. According to the Montgomery Register-Herald, Wal-Mart is taking its store plan for Quincy, which is in eastern Kanawha County, out of mothballs. “Earlier this year we did re-evaluate our growth strategy across the country, which caused a delay in virtually all projects not under construction,” a senior manager for Wal-Mart Public Affairs and Government Relations told the Register-Herald. Now the project could start building in early 2009, and be open roughly a year later. The 20 acre site Wal-Mart wants is part of a larger 77 acre parcel, which unfortunately is located next to the town’s Riverside High School. Wal-Mart was supposed to begin construction in the summer of 2007 — but the project has been on hold for more than a year. The owner of the property, who runs the Quincy Coal Co., says he began working with Wal-Mart in 2005. The superstore is slated to be 194,000 s.f. according to the newspaper. The director for Kanawha County Planning & Development says that Wal-Mart’s building permit from 2007 has expired. “They haven’t renewed the permit yet, but I wouldn’t anticipate any problems if, or when, they re-apply,” the county official said. Near this site is the Quincy Mall, which has in it a Kroger grocery store, a Rite Aid and a Dollar General Store — all of which will be hard hit if the supercenter ever opens. If Kroger has to close, the Quincy Mall is in deep trouble. That could also affect the West Viriginia state police, since the cops have a substation located in the Quincy Mall. But if the Wal-Mart is ever built, the police can move into the store to be closer to the people they will be arresting in greater numbers.
Wal-Mart claims the average wage for “regular, full-time hourly associates” in West Virginia is $10.58 — the third lowest wage in the nation, behind only Oklahoma at $10.36 per hour, and Mississippi at $10.55 per hour. A 36 hour per week worker at the Wal-Mart superstore in Quincy, West Virginia could expect to gross $381 a week — before taxes. This is not exactly Kanawha County putting its best foot forward economically. Readers are urged to email Kent Carper, President of the Kanawha County Commissioners at [email protected]/commission with the following message: “Dear President Carper, I am trying to imagine Daniel Boone, who had a home in Kanawha County, shopping at a Wal-Mart supercenter. The Arkansas retailer has kept people in Quincy waiting for over a year to see whether or not a superstore is coming. The company even let its building permit expire. Its clear that Wal-Mart has not been too eager to build in Quincy, and the Quincy site was not one of its first or second choices for a store. Now that you have a number of Wal-Marts nearby, most of the sales going to a new superstore would be drawn from existing merchants, like those at the nearby Quincy Mall. This project will mean few, if any, new jobs, and little tax revenues, since other stores, like Kroger or Rite Aid, will lose sales and jobs when Wal-Mart opens. And the average full-time Wal-Mart worker in West Virginia makes the third lowest wage in the county by Wal-Mart standards. More low wage jobs — this is now what Kanawha County needs. I urge you, before Wal-Mart even reapplies for its building permit, pass a cap of 65,000 s.f. on the size of retail stores and force all these big box developers to fit the scale of small communities in Kanawha County. All you will get from this project is higher crime, and increased traffic. They don’t sell small town quality of life on any Wal-Mart shelf — but once Kanawha County loses that — Wal-Mart can’t sell it back to you at any price. Save your permits. Live better.”