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1999-02-19
Madison, WI. Home Depot's Corporate Welfare.

In 1997, Home Depot had sales in excess of $19 billion. Yet the company is willing to accept taxpayer's money to develop a store location in Madison, WI. The site, known as Nakoma Plaza, qualifies for state funding under the Brownfields Grant program. Home Depot proposed building a 115,000 s.f. store at Nakoma Plaza, along with a 60,000 s.f. grocery store. The company reportedly told city officials that the project would "create" more than 600 jobs. No word on how many jobs at other building supply stores and grocery stores will be eliminated. However, state officials are tossing in a $750,000 "grant" to help Home Depot along. This generous grant will allow the taxpayers of Wisconsin to help Home Depot eliminate employment at other firms in the trade area which were not fortunate enough to attract state grants. If they pollute their locations before closing down, perhaps the next tenants could qualify for tax dollars as well. The corporate welfare given to the largest home improvement store in the world was criticized by only one membr of the Madison Plan Commission. Member Stuart Levitan found it "beyond ironic" that a wealthy corporation was allowed to get taxpayers to help foot the bill of developing the Depot site. "I'm very supportive of the brownfields program," Levitan told the Capital Times, "but to use it for a corporation with a billion dollars in profits reflects a different set of priorities." The tax dollars will be used for "remediation and redevelopment" of the deteriorating shopping center. Small businesses already located at the Plaza are being given the boot to make way for site demolition. Home Depot had been haggling with the city over other road development costs at the site. The taxpayers of Wisconsin are also paying for the addition of a third left turn lane at the site. To get the brownfields grant, Home Depot had to apply to the state Department of Commerce. One state lawmaker also criticized the use of public funds for Home Depot. "It's very common to have these reports about the number of new jobs that are being created by retail development," said State Rep. Spencer Black. "But these aren't new jobs, they're just transfers. If I shop at Home Depot, that's just business that is being taken away from some other hardware store."

What you can do: What some states are now doing is making such brownfields subsidies available only to industrial tenants, projects which generate new jobs, not transfers. In Chula Vista, CA, residents blocked a similar welfare deal for a Wal-Mart by raising the issue with the use of bonds for retail projects. Home Depot in this Madison case not only accepted the tax dollars, but filed an application proactively to get the money. Sprawl-busters can contact their State Rep or Senator and ask that any brownfields law be amended to only allow subsidies to be used for industrial or office park development, making retail malls ineligible for tax support.










 
 
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