We Need a Better Hope for the Future Than Wal-Mart

graduationIf I were a graduating senior this year at Western Brown High School who was thinking of going to college, what would bring me back to my hometown, my college diploma in hand?

Certainly not Wal-Mart.

Every small town needs a reason to keep its young people coming back, and few reasons can be less compelling than Wal-Mart. With most jobs at Wal-Mart part-time, with salaries under $10 and few benefits, can we believe that Wal-Mart is going to bring our kids back to Brown County? Or even keep them here?

Nearby West Union put in a Wal-Mart SuperCenter several years ago, its leaders hoping that the world’s largest retailer would be the cure for what ailed that community. If anything, West Union is even less of a destination than it once was. Many of the mom and pop businesses have closed up. A young person can’t even hope to take over the family business because Wal-Mart drove that family business out of business.

Short-sightedness on the part of community leaders who have drunk the Wal-Mart marketing Kool-Aid results in towns with a Wal-Mart instead of the kinds of 21st century businesses and thriving mom and pops that keep a community’s young people in the community.

Organic food production and co-ops are generating large revenues for those communities wise enough to see the trends. We already have much of that farming infrastructure in place in Brown County, making Mount Orab an ideal nexus for locavores seeking alternative local food sources, especially those grown organically. These food trends are hot and should be pursued intently by local leaders. Communities around the country who have invested in this burgeoning trend enjoy a renewed purpose, local pride, and the right kind of growth.

Instead, our community is going after Wal-Mart. How terribly short-sighted! (To see how short-sighted, consider reading Bill McKibben’s outstanding book Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future.)

Alternative, ecologically-friendly fuel sources will be hot for years to come. Many companies are investigating myriad options for new types of fuel. Our county could easily be known as the new hub for companies exploring tomorrow’s green energy sources, especially biofuels. Instead, our leaders are going after Wal-Mart. So much for inspiring our young people toward careers in science. So much for giving them a reason to come back to their hometowns and use what they have learned to better our community and the world beyond it.

Are our county and local leaders working toward any of these better alternatives to Wal-Mart? Or did they just settle for the lowest common denominator option, ensuring our young people have little reason to stay in the community?

Well, Wal-Mart is good for one thing—a massive increase in crime and more taxpayer dollars needed to pay for that crime. But that’s another post.

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