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2005-09-30
Vermilion, Lorain, Oberlin, Elyria, OH. Wal-Mart Saturates Ohio.

Small towns in Ohio are getting a closer look at Wal-Mart than many residents would care to have. The Morning Journal newspaper reports this week that township trustees in Vermilion, Ohio presented plans for a Wal-Mart supercenter. Some local businesspeople in Vermilion understood what the impact will be. ''Their effect on businesses and residents is well-known,'' said Dick Friedman, the owner of Fine Clothing, a family-owned clothing and sporting goods store in Vermilion. The head of the local Chamber of Commerce -- whose members are predominately small, local businesses -- insisted that although the concerns of local businesses were legitimate, "it's a wonderful thing for our schools. We want to protect our downtown businesses, but we don't want to turn away business.'' Wal-Mart told local residents that they knew Vermilion needs a Wal-Mart supercenter because their study of customer ZIP codes shows that other nearby Wal-Marts attract Vermilion shoppers. The Vermilion proposal happens to have some wetlands on the site, but local zoning officials say the land is commercially zoned, and if Wal-Mart stays out of the wetlands, all it needs is a special permit for a gas station, and approval to hold sales in the parking lot. Wal-Mart has also stirred up controversy in nearby Lorain, Ohio, where opponents have placed the issue of a superstore on the November ballot. In Oberlin, Ohio a ballot question to stop Wal-Mart was rejected by city officials, who ruled that the town's charter did not allow for a referendum on zoning issues. But Oberlin residents are nonetheless pushing for a "living wage" amendment to the city's charter, similar to initiatives in Chicago and New Jersey that require large employers to pay their workers higher wages. The group Oberlin Citizens for Responsible Development, has warned that they may sue the city to place the Wal-Mart issue on the ballot. Finally, in Elyria, Ohio, Wal-Mart has proposed building a second store, this one on Route 57, which has drawn fire from area residents.

What you can do: In each case where Wal-Mart has landed in Ohio, local residents are kicking up dust to stop it. Local residents and businesspeople often understand what city and town officials don't want to accept: that Wal-Mart is a drain on the local economy, and not a form of economic development. Local officials, and often their Chambers of Commerce, confuse a building going up, with progress. Unfortunately, new retail largely feeds off old retail, and the net result is a shift in ownership from local, family businesses, which keep most of their profits local, versus regional, or national chains which sump-pump money out of local circulation. By saturating an area, Wal-Mart cannibalizes its own sales per square foot at other stores, but still picks up a larger sales volume. With each proposal, another 25 acres or more of Ohio land gets consumed by sprawling malls, which demand a high level of tax dollars to support the costs of road, water and sewer maintenance, plus police costs. The AFL-CIO released a report this year, "Wal-Mart Imports From China, Exports Ohio Jobs", which tells the stories of four Ohio companies that sell to Wal-Mart. The loss of jobs at the Huffy Corp., Rubbermaid, Mr. Coffee and Thomson factories in Ohio demonstrates how Wal-Mart pressures suppliers to send Ohio jobs overseas. The study concludes that Time and again, Wal-Mart insists its low prices more than make up for the destruction of Ohio's manufacturing jobs. Wal-Mart is using its power to force Americans to make a false choice between good jobs and low prices to keep from having to make choices that might jeopardize the $11 billion profit Wal-Mart took in 2004. Wal-Mart's size has allowed it to remake the American economy, substituting its narrow interests for honored American values, including good jobs, family-supporting wages and affordable health care. For a copy of this report, contact info@sprawl-busters.com.










 
 
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