No News Is Good News?

walmart_storefrontIf it’s been quiet here at No Mount Orab Wal-Mart that may be a good thing. It’s difficult to know what is happening in light of the global economic meltdown, especially concerning the capital building programs of major companies.

Wal-Mart has announced elsewhere that it is scaling back its expansion plans. Several planned Supercenters have been scrapped. In fact, I have heard through the grapevine that the entire Supercenter idea may be in jeopardy, as WalMart’s grocery sections are underperforming.

Here’s what I do know:

The site supposedly zoned for the Mount Orab Wal-Mart has seen zero activity since the initial flurry of tree cutting back in late 2007. In fact, the section of trees that was supposed to be removed by mid-2008 still stands.

The local newspapers have said little about the project in the wake of the October 2007 announcement.

Kroger announced a Marketplace store for the area, which would make the Wal-Mart overkill for the size of Mount Orab.

The housing market implosion curtailed all new homebuilding. Existing building projects, save for the medical center, have stalled. Perhaps the great move east for disaffected Cincinnatians will not materialize, throwing off demographic analysis for Brown County and environs.

No matter what the issue, the lack of activity and news on the planned Wal-Mart is curious. Maybe, for those of us against the building of a new Wal-Mart in Mount Orab, that’s good news.

Banking on Taxes from Wal-Mart? Think Again…

Sorry, I had it here somewhere...
Sorry, I had it here somewhere...

One of the big promises that accompanies the selling of a new Wal-Mart to starry-eyed small town officials is the tax lure. Suddenly, Wal-Mart comes to town and with it the gravy train. You’ve got local mayors and county officials dreaming at night of the ways to spend the millions they predict will roll in.

But Wal-Mart doesn’t like paying taxes. Honestly, though, who can blame them? No one likes paying taxes.

The problem is that Wal-Mart promises local governments a big payout, then turns around and delivers something else. I don’t know how you were raised, but my momma told me lying was wrong.

A simple Google search on the words “Wal-Mart” and “taxes” will uncover a litany of scheming that would make a mafioso blanch. Here’s a sampling:

From The Wall Street Journal : Why Wal-Mart Setup Shop in Italy

From The New York Times : Study Says Wal-Mart Fights Local Taxes

From The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel : Wal-Mart Owes Back Taxes, State Says

From Good Jobs First: Rolling Back Property Tax Payments

Fact is, Wal-Mart doesn’t want our community to get its money, and it will find any way it can not to pay the very money it promised those starry-eyed local officials.

Brown County can’t wait to build a new jail with money it longs to get from taxing a new Wal-Mart. Anyone want to guess what happens when the county starts building that jail and then suddenly the funds just ain’t there?

Who goes to jail then?

No Wal-Mart? Well, We Can Always Hope…

According to the Wednesday, June 18 edition of The Wall Street Journal, Wal-Mart announced it will be scaling back the number of stores it opens in the next few years, chopping more than a billion dollars in capital expenditures in 2009 alone.

The Journal also notes the following:

Critics have questioned the benefit of Wal-Mart supercenters on local communities, particularly small towns with mom-and-pop stores that are often forced out of business when a Wal-Mart store opens in the area.

Yeah, exactly.

Plans for Kroger, a local company that keeps jobs and money in the Greater Cincinnati area (unlike Wal-Mart), include a new Marketplace center that would fulfill any perceived need for access to a wider range of goods. We can only hope that Wal-Mart decides to take the retail fight elsewhere.

New Jail? You’ll Need One When Wal-Mart Comes to Town

One of the cries of Brown County leadership concerns a new jail. The thought is that bringing Wal-Mart to town will generate enough tax monies for the county to build that jail.

Sadly, they’ll need a new jail should Wal-Mart take up county residence. Why? Because Wal-Mart stores boast a scary amount of crime:

  • The average Wal-Mart in Ohio reported 188.5 police incidents per year in 2004.
  • Police costs alone average $77.50 per incident, totaling an average of $14,608.75 per store in Ohio. (The average cost for moving those offenders through the county legal system, which has not been tracked, is certainly much higher.)
  • Worse, most police departments find they must add an extra officer just to handle the increased crime generated by the Wal-Mart. That cost? $80,600 for an additional officer, which includes salary, benefits, training, and equipment.

But any large retail store creates a temptation to crime, right? True, but not all retailers are created equal crime-wise. An independent study conducted in 2005 compared Wal-Mart stores with Target stores located near each other. The results are shocking:

  • The average Wal-Mart store generated nearly 5 times the crime of its neighbor Target store.
  • Customers and employees were 6 times as likely to be assaulted at Wal-Mart than Target.
  • Customers and employees had their vehicles stolen from Wal-Mart parking lots at 10 times the rate of the Target.

Clearly, Wal-Mart has a serious security issue.

The upshot?

The few bucks taxpayers save at Wal-Mart will be offset by higher taxes needed to handle the increased crime and subsequent criminal prosecution that haunts each store.Handcuffs

The neighborhoods Wal-Mart populates automatically become less safe. Worse, Wal-Mart sees far more crime per store than other large, retail stores.

Higher taxes and more crime—suddenly, that smiling Wal-Mart happy face seems out of place.

As for all those business taxes Wal-Mart will be giving Brown County to operate within its borders (money earmarked to build that ironic, new jail), just ask the State of Illinois what happened to $26.4 million in tax money Wal-Mart managed to avoid paying them.

But that’s fodder for another post…

For more, see the Wal-Mart crime study here.

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.