Blaine, MN. Mayor Not Swayed By The "Love to Hate Wal-Mart" Movement
Tom Ryan, the Mayor of Blaine, Minnesota (pop. 59,412) is convinced that Wal-Mart is a good economic influence on his city. But even a strong supporter of Wal-Mart like Mayor Ryan is not quite sure why his city is getting two Wal-Marts---one on the east and one on the west sides of town.
Last August, Mayor Ryan helped welcome the first Wal-Mart to the city, but last week when a second Wal-Mart was proposed--this one a superstore---Hizzoner scratched his head. "We still can't figure out why they are putting them so close," Ryan told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Blaine already has over 2.5 million square feet of commercial development, and the city calls itself a "regional hub for retail activity" in the metro area north of the Twin Cities.
Blain has the 1.3 million s.f. Northtown Mall, which includes Herberger's, Best Buy, Burlington Coat Factory and Home Depot. It also hosts the Northcourt Commons, which features a Menard's and a Kohls, plus the Super Target at Victory Village, and a Wal-Mart and Cub Foods at the Village of Blaine.
In nearby Anoka, Minnesota, Wal-Mart just opened a superstore, along with new stores in Andover. Brooklyn, Princeton and under construction in Roseville--all of them in the North Metro Area. According to the Star Tribune, 'Wal-Mart has eclipsed Target on its home turf. Minnesota now has 79 Wal-Marts and Sam's Clubs vs. 75 Targets."
There will be 9 Wal-Mart superstores north of the Twin Cities--a loud message to Target in its home state. Some of these new Wal-Marts are located across the street from Targets. "We continue to see opportunities to grow and serve our customers in Minnesota and particularly the north metro," a Wal-Mart spokesman told the Star Tribune.
In Blaine, Mayor Ryan now has one Wal-Mart discount store on his west side, located less than one mile from an existing Target. The Mayor seems oblivious to the 'saturation effect' that Wal-Mart has pursued since the 1990s: build a ring of stores around each other, and then fill in the spaces. It is not uncommon to find Wal-Mart stores three to five miles apart.
Yet Mayor Ryan sees a new store opening and thinks he is seeing new jobs. When the west side Wal-Mart opened up near Target, the Mayor said he was looking forward to 300 new jobs. The Mayor does not seem to grasp the concept of transferred sales, and the fact that other grocery stores will shut down within the first two years that Wal-Mart opens its superstores. The net job growth from over-saturating a trade area can be zero or worse.
The second Wal-Mart in Blaine, which is slated for the east side, has stirred up neighborhood opponents, because the store is close to a residential community, and to the existing Wal-Mart at the Village of Blaine shopping center. But the superstore proposed for the east side will sell groceries, while the west side store---which is in the same mall as a Cub Foods--has restrictions on how much groceries can be sold there.
Mayor Ryan's response to his own citizens was remarkable. He told the Star-Tribune that he wouldn't allow the "love to hate Wal-Mart" movement to sway his decision-making. "It isn't up to us to discriminate against any store," Ryan said.
What you can do: Readers are urged to email Blaine Mayor Tim Ryan at: email@example.com with the following message:
"Dear Mayor Ryan,
You have wondered out loud why your metro north region is being hit with so many big box stores in such close proximity. Sam Walton had a saturation strategy that his heirs continue to pursue today when siting new stores: spread out and fill in. Your new east side Wal-Mart store is a fill-in varity, its designed to transfer sales from existing competitors---and Wal-Mart may even shut down its west side discount store to avoid cannibalizing its own sales.
The fact is, this new store is not a form of economic development, its a form of displacement. When the Star Tribune says the Wal-Mart is one of the largest regional employers, the truth is that most of their jobs came from taking market share away from existing merchants. You are not looking at new jobs---but simply old jobs at new cash registers.
Your trade area is already over-supplied with grocery stores---and the stores that go under within two years of a Wal-Mart opening count against the "new" jobs you eagerly welcome.
You can oppose this big box project on the east side because its scale is not compatible with surrounding residential property--regardless of the logo on the building. That's called protecting your homeowners.
The "love to hate Wal-Mart" movement has a long list of reasons to oppose these big box projects--and they usually are fighting City Hall to protect the value of their homes--something which zoning is supposed to help, not hurt.
You don't need another Wal-Mart in Blaine, and you know it. Your homeowners are looking for someone to protect the little guy---the residential taxpayer. You have the choice to protect the rich corporation, or to help your struggling homeowners. Maybe its time for you to think outside the box."