On this election day, how appropriate that we remember the important role of the American taxpayer in helping to subsidize the operation of one of the world’s largest global retailers. Last April, Site Selection magazine listed as its “incentives deal of the month” the construction of a 1 million square foot Wal-Mart import distribution center in Virginia, near the line between James City County and the city of Newport News. This facility will help Wal-Mart bring to our shores all those consumer goods that used to be manfactured in the U.S., but are now stamped “made in China”, or made in 3rd world sweatshops. Wal-Mart imports so many millions of tons of “not-Made in the USA” goods that it needed a larger distribution center to handle the stuff. According to Site Selection magazine, Virginia had been quietly wooing Wal-Mart with more than just the wonderful attributes of the region. James River set up a 2,400 acres “Enterprise Zone” and gave Wal-Mart a $950,000 grant over a six year period. Wal-Mart will take up 200 acres in the Green Mount Industrial Park, and will get nearly $1 million in corporate welfare for doing so. But there’s more. The state of Virginia also tossed in a $700,000 grant from the Virginia Governor’s Opportunity Fund. The total incentivbe package “hasn’t been disclosed” the magazine said, but it also includes road improvements along Route 60 paid for by taxpayers as well. Wal-Mart claims that the import facility will initially employ 230 people, and when it doubles in size to 2 million square feet another 170 jobs will be created. The state of Virginia might as well keep its wallet out, because those roadways are going to need continuing upgrades, considering that 54,750 truck trips, loaded down with Chinese goods, will rumble over those asphalt lanes annually. The import center was expected to open for Chinese goods on by this month, or December.
$1.65 million in grants, plus free roadwork — a nice “incentive” for a company that had $167 billion in sales in 1999. The taxpayers continue to subsidize the operations of corporations like Wal-Mart, while American manufacturing of retail goods shifts to foreign countries, and our trade deficit balloons to new heights. Is this called “putting your tax dollars to work”, or simply corporate welfare? And how many of the jobs “created” at this import facility are offset by the lost jobs in manufacturing plants that have shut down and moved their operations to Mexico or Asia?