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2006-07-26
Greenwood, SC City Offers “Incentives” to Lure More Big Boxes

There are currently three empty Wal-Marts in South Carolina, and one of them happens to be a 91,000 s.f. Wal-Mart discount store, which the retailer left behind in its quest to build bigger and bigger supercenters. But the lesson of putting all your economic eggs in a big box has not been learned in Greenwood. According to the Index-Journal newspaper, a group called the Partnership Alliance wants to lure more big boxes into Greenfield, "and it's not just because of the scenery." Instead of beauty, Greenwood is offering some of the richest companies financial incentives -- a common form of corporate welfare. The Partnership is offering to help companies move into their "empty boxes" (vacant buildings) or building on "green fields" (unused land). A Partnership spokesman said the incentives will improve the quality of life in Greenwood by bringing in more jobs and making an economic impact, as Greenwood money would stay in the county. "Our object is to show commercial and national retailers that the Greenwood market is larger than just Greenwood County." So the Partnership is providing tax credits to retailers who fill up vacant retail stores -- and Greenwood apparently has plenty of them, in Greenwood Mall, Greenwood Plaza, Kmart Plaza, Piedmont Plaza, Uptown Greenwood, Northgate Plaza, on Ninety Six Main Street and on Ware Shoals Main Street. If a business puts up a minimum $250,000 development expenditure for architectural/engineering cleanup, demolition or site preparations and improvements, the city will provide an annual credit for property tax as a percentage of tax increase for up to 15 years. When Wal-Mart's lease runs out on its "old" building, the Partnership will "more aggressively" market the property, as it will be less expensive to purchase. "We're trying to fast-forward the (growth) process," a Partnership spokesman told the newspaper. "Instead of taking 10 years to make it happen, it will take five to six years." The Partnership Alliance also is offering assistance with infrastructure taxes and installation costs of sewer and roads for those wanting to build in the area. Why all these incentives? The Partnership says big stores may reject Greenwood because of its size. "They all think the market in Greenwood is small," the Partnership explained. "To entice them, we're making it cheaper by helping with the infrastructure costs and rebating them on taxes ... (the growth) will prove a point and will attract other things." The Partnership explains that communities either are seen by developers as a Wal-Mart community or a fashion/shopping community. "Greenwood is on the verge of moving from a Wal-Mart community to more of a shopping venue," the group noted. "If you talk to people in the state, they say Greenwood is a hidden gem. I honestly think it's a gem that's getting ready to be discovered."

What you can do: Greenwood is "fast-forwarding" its continued economic dependency. Greenwood was attractive enough to Wal-Mart that it built a discount store there, and now that store has been abandoned. Wal-Mart did not even own the building, and its lease is running out. Instead of learning from this experience that big boxes will come and go, regardless of community need or welfare, Greenwood is looking to bring on more of the same. They apparently don't understand how they got empty boxes and empty malls in the first place. Wal-Mart came in, and clearly the city is dealing with plenty of empty retail space. The community was probably thrilled when Wal-Mart moved in -- but now all they have is an empty building. Chasing national chains ignores the small business infrastructure already in Greenwood, and replaces businesses that contribute more to the local economy, while attracting national firms that come and go on their own internal logic. It would never occur to officials to offer strong incentives for small businesses that want to get started in Greenwood -- only the big logos will do. Like the national retailer from Arkansas that already burned them. Greenwood is spending more money to hasten its own local of economic control. The community has already suffered an economic blow, and now will end up with more sprawl, and less control over its future. For similar stories, search Newsflash by 'corporate welfare.'










 
 
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