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2009-11-12
Zion Crossroads, VA. Wal-Mart Puts Small Town On The Map

Zion Crossroads is an unincorporated community in Louisa County, Virginia. Zion is so small it doesn't even have a website. But now it has a big Wal-Mart supercenter. The county has a population of roughly 33,000. On November 9, 2009, Wal-Mart put out a press release which said this new supercenter on Camp Creek Parkway would bring 250 'new' jobs "to support the area's economy." Wal-Mart promised that the new store would be faster, friendlier and cleaner than other Wal-Marts. Despite the fact that another Wal-Mart in this trade area was not needed, and the store is wasting an enormous piece of land, the new superstore makes up for that environmental waste by incorporating low flow toilets and skylights in the ceiling. This community has a Wal-Mart distribution center nearby, so locals consider Wal-Mart to be a big-deal employer in Virginia. The new superstore is 156,490 s.f. and will be open 24/7. The retailer says that the average wage for full time hourly employees will be $11.46 per hour. Wal-Mart never discusses the wages it pays for part-timers. According to the Daily Progress newspaper, hundreds of people showed up for the grand opening this week, as Louis County officials cut the ribbon and repeated Wal-Mart's misleading economic statistics. For many communities, getting their own Wal-Mart supercenter is finally being put on the map. This is reflected in the statements of county officials. "Louisa has now become a destination shopping place," Louisa county Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes told the eager shoppers. "This is where people are going to come shop." The Daily Progress newspaper quoted the store's manager directly from the Wal-Mart press release about how the store was so "easy to navigate." The director of economic development for the county proclaimed that this superstore was part of the county's long term plan for attracting more businesses to the county. "This store is a sign of prosperity, jobs and a new tax base coming to Louisa County," he said. "This is absolutely the beginning of the growth Louisa and Fluvanna counties are going to experience in the years to come."

What you can do: Is any of this economic voodoo real? Is landing a Wal-Mart really a "sign of prosperity," or just a large sign? One of the women quoted by the Daily Progress said she would be switching her Wal-Mart shopping from the store in Richmond, Virginia, to Zion Crossroads. She will no longer buy her groceries in Charlottesville she said. This represents merely a shifting of existing spending -- not new growth, not new jobs. The Wal-Mart opening this week in Zion Crossroads, like the Wal-Mart that is being built in nearby Ruckersville, and the supercenter planned near the civil war Wilderness Battlefield in Orange County, Virginia, are just capturing sales from existing businesses, or cannibalizing existing Wal-Marts. Even the 800 people who work at the Wal-Mart distribution center near Zion Crossroads have put other people in similar warehouses out of work. By saturating an area with superstores, Wal-Mart not only cuts into its own same store sales, but it also puts other area merchants out of business. The net impact, once you minus out the jobs lost at other retailers, is very few new jobs. Yet people whose job it is to promote economic development convince themselves that more retail is a "sign of prosperity." Wal-Mart brings no new wealth to Louisa. They make nothing, they only sell things -- mostly cheap Chinese imports. Retail does not stimulate growth, it follows growth. Retail depends on other job sectors, and if those sectors are weak, new retail simply feeds off the same discretionary income that feeds existing merchants. Readers are urged to email Willie Harper, the Chairman of the Louisa County Board of Supervisors at LCBS_MD @ louisa.org with the following message: "Dear Chairman Harper, Your director of economic development said this week that the opening of a Wal-Mart was a 'sign of prosperity' for the area. He said Wal-Mart would bring a "new tax base" to the county. Do you have any evidence at all that such statements are true? Wal-Mart is a bottom feeder. It sucks sales away from existing merchants, and simply transfer sales from other cash registers. There is no new tax base here. Wal-Mart is not a sign of prosperity -- it's a sign of desperation that a county has to rely on low wage jobs to put it on the map. Real economic development is different than economic displacement, and if the county cannot distinguish one from the other, then you will end up with a long line of national chain stores that make your county look like every other sprawling county in the United States, with the same strip of logos and big box tenants. Yes, your county will become a destination -- for more traffic, more crime, and more people looking for low-income housing -- because they won't be able to afford to buy a home where they work. Louisa has followed the crowd to sprawl-mart. Now watch as your local businesses go under, and watch the net job figure drop."












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

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