Horn Lake, MS. Mayor Brags He "Snagged" a Wal-Mart, But City Gets Hooked
The Mayor of Horn Lake, Mississippi, a suburb of Memphis, proudly posed before cameras this week with a grappling hook in his hand, next to a sculpture of a fish, to symbolize how the city just "snagged" a new Wal-Mart superstore. The only problem is, now the Mayor's got to figure out how to get the hook out of his mouth.
According to the DeSoto Times Tribune, the new Wal-Mart weighs in at 186,933 s.f. and the store will serve as the "centerpiece" of a new 50 acres shopping center. Both Horn Lake city officials and the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors were at the press conference held on December 2nd.
With a giant fish as a backdrop, Mayor Allen Latimer used a mini rod and reel to pluck a coin from the fish's mouth---a Biblical reference to a parable in the New Testament--according to the Tribune.
The developer, who is also the CEO of American Fireworks, claimed the new development will hook customers from all over DeSoto County, and will "shift the center of Horn Lake westward."
Not too many Horn Lakers showed up to City Hall to watch the scripted event. The Tribune described the turnout as a "small crowd that filled the first couple of rows at City Hall." But that didn't dampen the show for developer Dale Wilson, who promised the crowd, "This will be a monumental asset of sales tax revenue for the city. We feel there will be a huge expansion. It's the biggest store they build. I think it will be phenomenal for the city."
Wilson justified his new Wal-Mart as the best way to ease traffic away from the nearby Wal-Mart superstore in Southaven, less than 4 miles away. There is a second Wal-Mart superstore in Memphis, on Elvis Presley Boulevard, also less than 4 miles away. "Wal-Mart in Southaven is so overcrowded," Wilson told The Tribune. "it's difficult to get in there. You will see people crossing the bridge to come to Horn Lake -- after all, it's a brand new store."
According to the DeSoto Times Tribune, Mayor Latimer "could hardly contain his excitement." He turned to developer Wilson and said: "Perhaps you should have worn a red suit with a white beard." Other local officials apparently bought the Wal-Mart press release hook, line and sinker. One City Supervisor added, "It's big deal. They are talking about 300 to 500 new jobs."
But the city will never see 300 new jobs from this retail project. As in other communities, the first jobs to go will be those at existing retailers in the Horn Lake area---as well as sales cannibalized at the two nearby Wal-Mart superstores. It's true that 16% of the city's population of 26,529 is living below poverty, but there are plenty of Wal-Marts already to hook retail sales across the trade area. There simply is no market need for this new superstore, and it will have to succeed at the expense of existing businesses, especially the 15 existing grocery stores in Horn Lake, like Kroger, Save-Al-Lot, Super Valu, Piggly Wiggly, Easy Way, Hope Market, and others. Look there for the lost jobs.
What you can do: Readers are urged to email Mayor Latimer at: firstname.lastname@example.org with the following message:
Dear Mayor Latimer,
Your dad was a small merchant. He supported your family from sales at the Bullfrog Corner Store. And you, Mr. Mayor, you ran the Goodman Road Package Store for 27 years. You have small business in your DNA---and yet here you are giddy from 'snagging' a big Wal-Mart fish! Did you make the rounds of your local small grocery stores to brag about the big one your landed? Did you tell Easy Way, or Hope Market? Did you stop by Piggly Wiggly? Have you calculated how much market share each of these merchants will lose? Well, maybe its just what happens to merchants that own businesses with names like Bullfrog Corner Store. The sun has set on that kind of merchant. It helped keep your family afloat---but everything is big business now, and superstores.
Your city likes to say its the "greenest city in Mississippi." It looks like Wal-Mart has discovered your green---and even though Wal-Mart will cut into its own superstore sales, it still gives them more market share in the Horn Lake area.
Mr. Mayor, you have been hooked, and one day Wal-Mart will swim away, leaving you with a big, dark store and no one to fill it. Your little fish will be gone, and the developer will have made his fortune and moved on too. Who will be left to hold up your fish then?