Battle Ground, WA. Battle Over Wal-Mart Likely in Battle Ground
Wal-Mart should have known what it was getting into just by the name of the town: Battle Ground.
This week Sprawl-Busters received word from residents in Battle Ground that their small community is prepared to battle a 150,000 s.f. Wal-Mart superstore. The Reflector newspaper carried a story on October 12th in which a Wal-Mart official confirmed the retailer planned to open up a superstore that the company claimed in a memo would "create 300 quality jobs."
According to Wal-Mart, the average, full-time wage worker at Wal-Mart in Washington state earns $13 an hour. This is an unverified figure, and any applicant for a job at Wal-Mart would be lucky to get more than $9 an hour to start, and full-time does not mean 40 hours per week. In fact, most hours will vary week to week depending on sales demand at the store.
The supercenter will be located near the intersection of Southwest Scotton Way and State Highway 503, and is part of a development being called the Mill Creek Town Center. But it is not really the city center at all.
The company hopes to break ground in Battle Ground this coming summer, but opposition from local residents could impact that timetable. Construction of a store this size normally takes Wal-Mart nine months to a year.
Residents opposed to the project are encouraged by the fact that no application has been submitted yet to the city. But if the city's community development director is any indication, Wal-Mart can expect full cooperation from the city. The community development director repeated for the local newspaper that the new Wal-Mart will mean 300 more jobs -- lifted from the Wal-Mart press release. The city has no facts to show what the net job impact will be after subtracting out the number of existing jobs at other merchants that will close down once Wal-Mart opens. The city official also predicted that Wal-Mart's effort to get a building permit "would not be a lengthy one," according to The Reflector.
"It's an anchor," the city's development director explained. "It means we will get other businesses coming to the community because of their presence."
The Reflector quoted an employee of a local Albertson's grocery store as saying, their "goal is to make sure we keep our stores up to date and provide our guests with the products they're looking for at a competitive price, while offering excellent customer service." Wal-Mart is the country's largest grocery store -- and its market share has largely come from existing players, like Albertson's.
But the owner of one small flower business in downtown Battle Ground was more honest about the impact of a Wal-Mart. "As a struggling small-business owner in Battle Ground," she wrote, "this will be devastating to my business as well as many others."
What you can do: The city of Battle Ground has a population of roughly 18,000 people. The area is already saturated with Wal-Marts. There are no less than 4 Wal-Mart's within 20 miles of Battle Ground, including a superstore 11 miles away in Vancouver. The city was incorporated in 1951, but its name goes back a century before to a battle between U.S. soldiers and Native Americans that never happened. But this battle with Wal-Mart is definitely going to happen.
Readers are urged to send an email to Battle Ground Mayor Lisa Walters at: firstname.lastname@example.org with the following message:
Dear Mayor Walters,
Before your term as Mayor ends this December, you have something important to do for Battle Ground. The proposed Wal-Mart superstore makes no sense for a small city like yours. You have several Wal-Marts within a short drive, including the supserstore on 104th Avenue in Vancouver.
Do not be misled by Wal-Mart's fuzzy math, which states that the retailer will "create 300 quality jobs." Your director of development shamelessly repeated this statement directly from Wal-Mart's "fact" sheet -- but the reality is, you will lose a bunch of quality jobs at existing merchants, and the net increase in employment will be negligible, if not a negative. Wal-Mart is not a form of economic development, but a form of economic dislocation.
There is no way that tiny Battle Ground needs a building nearly 4 acres in size, and parking fields three times that size. It's way out of scale, and will create a signficant change to the traffic pattern in that part of the city.
And Mayor, please remember this: You can't buy small town quality of life on any shelf at Wal-Mart. But once they steal it from you, you can't get it back at any price."