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2009-05-19
Windsor & Timnath, CO. “Smart, Controlled Growth” Colorado Style

Wal-Mart has got to love Colorado. Many small towns in Colorado embrace the concept of 'smart growth,' but realize it in the most contradictory ways. The extremely small town of Timnath, Colorado is a perfect example of bad land use planning. In late April, Wal-Mart opened a supercenter, on the northeast corner of Harmony Road and Interstate 25, in Timnath. This community had a population in 2007 of 219 people. That's not a typo. Over the past 17 years, Timnath's population has risen by 29 people. Now that a huge Wal-Mart has arrived, local officials are predicting a "retail windfall" that will generate $1 million in sales taxes, allowing this tiniest of towns to have sewers for the first time, and its first police department. Every community with a Wal-Mart superstore needs a good police department. According to the Coloradoan newspaper, Timnath's gains will come from the cities of Loveland and Fort Collins, Colorado, which will lose sales from their Wal-Mart superstores. The superstore in Fort Collins is less than six miles from the Timnath site, and Loveland has two superstores 7 and 9 miles from Timnath. The new Timnath store is nested among 4 other Wal-Mart superstores within 15 miles. In Loveland, local officials say they take in roughly $6.5 million in sales tax revenues from their two supercenters and a Sam's Club -- but they will lose 5% (or $325,000) this coming year because of the drain of sales to bustling Timnath. Two years ago, Loveland did the same thing to Fort Collins, when the Loveland superstore opened. Fort Collins lost sales to Loveland. A Wal-Mart discount store in Fort Collins was also shut down. Colorado currently has three dead Wal-Mart stores that have been abandoned for larger supercenters. The Timnath Wal-Mart cannot survive on 219 people, and will have to draw heavily on customers in Loveland, Fort Collins, Windsor, Wellington, and even from Wyoming and Nebraska shoppers. Timnath town spokesman Kyle Boyd told the newspaper, "This a huge step for Timnath. It's another step in that direction of smart, controlled growth that we planned for." The Wal-Mart location along route 25 is part of a comprehensive plan that moves the retail center of Timnath away from the heart of town, out to the highway. Their new Wal-Mart is 196,321 s.f. The store manager told the locals that this huge store is "a new prototype that's unlike any other Wal-Mart," including individual shops such as a home shop, housewares, seasonal shops and more. The employees have been training for five weeks in preparation for the store opening. Roughly six miles away from this store opening, in the town of Windsor, the news was not so good. Five weeks after the grand opening in Timnath, the proposed Wal-Mart superstore in Windsor, Colorado has been put on hold. Wal-Mart had applied for a site at the at the northeast corner of 17th and Main streets in Windsor, with an expected opening date in 2010. But now the Coloradoan says the Windsor superstore is in limbo, "in light of current economy." Or is it due to Wal-Mart's overbuilding? The newpaper surmises, "with Wal-Mart Supercenter's opening in Loveland and Timnath recently, along with the continued delays on the proposed Windsor building, it is unsure if the Walmart will ever materialize." A spokesman for Wal-Mart would only say that the company is "working through projects scheduled to be built over the next couple years to see where Windsor fits in the overall growth plan," according to the paper. "We have not finished the process yet," the Wal-Mart spokesman said. "The timing is fluid."

What you can do: When Wal-Mart comes to an area, it scouts around for several locations at once. These locations may fall into two or three different communities. Sometimes the company pursues several sites in the same general trade area at once. In this situation, Wal-Mart began working on the Windsor store while the stores in Loveland and Timnath nearby were both moving forward. This allows the company to have a fallback store in case either Loveland or Timnath ran into community opposition, or hit site-related delays. Wal-Mart has told shareholders it is trying to end the practice of cannibalizing its own sales. In this Colorado market, they are seeking to grab sales from competitors like Target -- but much of the transferred sales will come from their existing stores. In 1998, Wal-Mart had 31 discount stores in Colorado, and 5 supercenters. Eleven years later, Wal-Mart has reduced its discount stores to 9, and has a total of 56 supercenters. Eventually, all the discount stores will be expanded into supercenters, or, like the discount store in Fort Collins, shut down. Wal-Mart has almost doubled its store saturation in Colorado over the past decade, and is placing stores in towns with less than 300 people. In fact, the new Wal-Mart store claimed to bring 450 'new' jobs -- twice as many people as the entire town of Timnath. When the store opened on April 22, 2009, Wal-Mart put out a press release that said the superstore would bring customers "faster service, a friendlier shopping experience and cleaner stores." The Timnath superstore also features "a large selection of Marchez Brothers Hispanic foods and an expanded assortment of dry grocery items including baking goods. The new Wal-Mart is designed to make shopping easy for customers. The layout creates an open shopping environment with wider aisles that contain no product displays. A bright interior color palette creates an inviting shopping experience and helps define the store's merchandise areas. Lower shelving creates an improved sightline and directional signage on every aisle helps customers find what they are looking for quickly." Readers are urged to email Windsor Mayor John Vazquez by going to: http://www.ci.windsor.co.us/forms.asp?fid=68 and sending the following message: "Dear Mayor Vazquez, If you want to find your missing Wal-Mart, just drive to Timnath. It's clear that Windsor was in a line of stores that included Loveland and Timnath ahead of you. Your trade area is now saturated with superstores, and to pin your economic future on stealing retail sales from existing big box towns is an economic dead end. Wal-Mart was using Windsor as a back up plan, and now they have no pressing need to cannibalize their existing stores. Windsor would do better at this point to focus on local, community based economic development, and leave the national chain stores to others. Timnath will steal sales from Loveland and Fort Collins, and all regional land use policies are out the window. Small towns in Colorado have the choice to lead growth, or follow it. When you find your town waiting to hear from Wal-Mart about its future -- you know you are in a bad place. It's time for Windsor to think outside of the box, and come up with a new economic development plan that is not based on saturation of retail sales."










 
 
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