Waynesburg, PA. Newspaper General Manager Urges Town To "Turn Away" Wal-Mart.
Dan Morris is the General Manager of a weekly newspaper called The Greene County Messenger. The paper has been around for 15 years, and it is popular in rural Greene County, Pennsylvania, population 40,000. The borough of Waynesburg makes up around 8,000 people. The area already has a surplus of Wal-Marts within a 20 minute drive in any direction from Greene County. Two developers, the McHolme Corporation and Delta Development, are working on a Wal-Mart supercenter project. Delta is slated to do the excavation for the project, and will retail a company owned by the brother of U.S. Congressman Frank Mascara. Another Congressman, John Murtha, has pledged over $1-million to build a new road across the property where the development is planned to take place. Greene county commissioners have actively pursued a Wal-Mart for over eight years. According to Dan Morris, "the uncertainty has been devastating to retailers in our area." Morris recently published an outspoken commentary, titled "It's Not Too Late To Stop Wal-Mart," that it excerpted below:
"The Greene County Messenger’s management has made a decision to strongly oppose Wal-Mart coming to Greene County. The businesses owners The Messenger met with were unanimous in their support of our efforts. We believe the predatory nature of Wal-Mart’s business is not healthy
for our community. The Messenger has a moral responsibility to take on this challenge, because the economic disaster that could occur will be unlike anything in the county’s history. We intend to do what we can to stop it, and educate the public...We want to make it clear that we are not opposed to retail development. Greene County needs to emerge from the dark ages when it comes to retail development. We are appalled that our public officials are spending taxpayer dollars to bring a predatory business to our community. We embrace retail development that fits in to our community. Wal-Mart has annihilated dozens of communities’ economic base. We have dozens of stories, studies and direct contacts that have told us how it will destroy Greene County’s economic base. Your taxes will go up as local businesses dry up. For those of you who think that Wal-Mart in Greene County would mean progress, we ask that you look at the facts that we will present to you in the coming months. They have literally wiped out communities like ours, only to move to another one. Supporters of a Greene County Wal-Mart often say that it will be different here, and there are not many local businesses that it can hurt. They cite our small retail base downtown as the only area that will be affected. There are more small retail businesses in Greene County than you realize, and it will impact all of them to a degree. If you support Wal-Mart coming to Waynesburg, have you thought about long-term issues? We ask that you look beyond the fact that you cannot buy certain items in Greene County. Will it be worth it to your community twenty years from now? Tire shops, paint stores, hair shops, hardware stores, travel agencies, electronics shops, grocers, clothing shops, photo studios, greenhouses/home garden shops, pharmacies, sporting goods stores and more are targeted by Wal-Mart. They play a huge economic role in Greene County, and many of them will not be able to compete. Some business owners who we talked with are unprepared, or are naive about what Wal-Mart will do. They can destroy a business by underselling it. Some businesses can prepare by offering things that Wal-Mart does not...Some folks have said that there will be more restaurants in our area if Wal-Mart shows up. Knowing how things work in Greene County, there would probably by a couple and that’s it. Folks will still travel outside the county to eat because of the variety...In a recent, exclusive meeting with two County Commissioners, they argued that Wal-Mart has already impacted our community significantly, because most Greene County residents can be found shopping at the Washington Wal-Mart. They said that they could campaign at Wal-Mart. Add that to the fact that the issue resurfaces before each election, and we’re sure that votes are the main reason they want it. If all of Greene County is shopping there, why do we need one? During this meeting with the commissioners, the Messenger was told that it’s unfortunate for local retailers. They said it’s just the way the retail world is, and if it puts local retailers out of business, it’s just the reality of the world of retail. They claim that Wal-Mart has signed on the dotted line to come to the county, but there is no
evidence to support the statement...There have been a string of broken promises that this newspaper has
published over the past eight-plus years...The county commissioners and developers have been nothing short of secretive about every step of the development until elections. Why? We believe it’s because they don’t have anything to show for the tons of your money that they have spent so far. When we began to look into the situation, and interviewed business owners, the powers-that-be began to scramble. They appear to be very concerned about our inquiries...Okay guys, it has been moving along for over eight years now, and we don’t know any more than we did in 1996. We have decided that we will no longer report on a “proposed Wal-Mart,” if we do not receive printed contracts that have been signed between
the giant retailer and McHolme Corp. As of press time, McHolme did not provide us with written evidence, and we have no reason to report that Wal-Mart is coming to Waynesburg...If the Wal-Mart development ever happens, it will go down as one of the great political blunders in Greene County history, and we will make sure that the County Commissioners receive full credit. Throughout the coming months, you will see material on our opinion page that will educate readers and business owners as to how they can stop Wal-Mart from putting a store here. It can be stopped, if we work together with public officials to take the necessary steps...In the big picture, we have the opportunity to stop Wal-Mart from considering Greene County as a place to prey on small businesses. We ask you to join us to turn Wal-Mart away from our community."
What you can do: Dan Morris' courageous stand against Wal-Mart goes against the traditional small business response, of "don't ask, don't tell." Many merchants try to hide their true feelings about the dangers they face from national big box chain stores, and they quietly close their doors without ever explaining what is obvious to everyone else: Wal-Mart is not the beginning of competition in small town America, but the end of competition. Morris can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.