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2007-08-11
Prichard, AL. Mayor Says Wal-Mart Thumbs Its Nose At His City

Prichard, Alabama is getting a bad rap, and Wal-Mart is only making things worse. According to a wikipedia entry for the city, Prichard (pop. 28,633) "is an impoverished city which has been in a state of decline since the mid-60s, it has been riddled with financial problems, Alabama's highest continuous per capita crime rate, and a population which has been fleeing for the last 40 years." In 1960, Prichard had a population of 47,371, making it Alabama's largest suburb. By 1970, the population had dropped to 41,000, and by 1990 it stood at 34,000. The 1980's downtown vacancy rate was around 80%, but by 2000, it had dropped to 30%. Perhaps all those vacanies are what prompted Mayor Ron Davis to try to "pitch" his city to Wal-Mart. "Prichard is a communithy of great pride," the Mayor says on his city's website, "with a rich and wonderful history encompassing a love of America's favorite pastime, baseball." The Mayor also boasts of the community's "signature shopping venues." But he hasn't been able to get Wal-Mart to sign on the line. This week the Mayor told The Alabama Press-Register that 1,000 people in Prichard -- about 3.5% of the population -- had signed petitions saying Wal-Mart is welcome in their city. In an unusual move, Mayor Davis posted the petitions in public buildings across the city. But Wal-Mart seems unimpressed. "While we appreciate the show of support (from the people of Prichard), we have researched the city and determined that the market would not support a Wal-Mart store," said a Wal-Mart spokeswoman. After all, the median income for households in Prichard is $19,544, and the median income for a family is $23,519. Those low numbers should look good to the giant retailer, but the fact is, the surrounding communities are already saturated with Wal-Marts. Prichard's bone has already been picked. Mayor Davis is not deterred. He says he's been after Wal-Mart for years. But his infatuation with the retailer is tempered by something that approaches outright hostility. Davis told the Press-Register that Wal-Mart "is handicapping his city by putting stores in Saraland and Mobile because they siphon off Prichard shoppers, depriving the city of much-needed sales-tax base," according to the newspaper. Davis wants the sales tax revenue that he believes a Wal-Mart store would bring. The Mayor has reportedly vented his frustration with the corporation in the past, saying of Wal-Mart, "they just care about making a dollar." When the Press-Register asked the Mayor if he would ask his constituents to boycott Wal-Mart, the Mayor replied, "We really want to work with them and stop any kind of a boycott from happening. But I don't think this community and the communities that surround appreciate them thumbing their nose at us."

What you can do: It must be refreshing for Wal-Mart to have a petition circulating that was not triggered by their own PR team, or by residents who want to stop them. On the other hand, Mayor Davis' love/hate approach to Wal-Mart is certainly sending mixed signals. It appears that even Wal-Mart doesn't think there's enough money in Prichard to dedicate a store to that city. After all, they have the Prichard revenues already. The supercenters in Saraland and Mobile are both less than 5 miles from Prichard. There are also two more supercenters less than 10 miles away in Semmes and Mobile. With 4 superstores packed tightly around Prichard, the Mayor seems to be wasting his energies. Readers can send a message to the Mayor's Chief of Staff by contacting Paul Clausell (251) 452-7800, or by email at: p.clausell@thecityofprichard.org. Leave this message for Mayor Davis: "Be careful what you wish for. You are right about Wal-Mart: they only care about money. Prichard does not need a Wal-Mart to feel good about itself. Your city should set itself apart from the other communities that surround you with Wal-Marts. Be glad that Wal-Mart isn't interested in you. There are plenty of cities around the country who are fighting to keep them out."










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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