Letter to the Editor – “Walmart Battle Rages On”

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Editor,

Yes, indeed, the battle rages on, and undeniably, the question is, “Will Walmart land in Zionsville?”(Current in Zionsville, Cover Story, “War-mart”; Dec. 4, 2012). I believe that most residents of Zionsville and surrounding areas read your interesting cover story “War-mart,” and now are more educated about the issues surrounding this topic. Thank you for providing some elucidation to the issue.

Brian Stemme, however, must be living on another planet, notwithstanding his so-called knowing “a little something about the issue.” With all due respect to Mr. Stemme’s “expertise,” his conclusion that Walmart poses no threat to local businesses is hardly based in reality.

Two relevantly recent articles published by eminent economists directly contradict Mr. Stemme’s position, to wit:

1)  Mom-and-Pops or Big Box Stores: Some Evidence of Walmart Impact on Retail Trade, Michael J. Hicks, Stanley R. Keil and Lee C. Spector, Ball State University, Economic Development Quarterly, and

2)  Study: Chicago Walmart Does Not Boost Employment or Retail Sales; University of Illinois at Chicago, Office of Public Affairs (MC 288);

Both these studies essentially conclude that stores near a Walmart were more likely to go out of business, period. Sorry, Mr. Stemme.

The findings support the contention that urban Walmart stores absorb sales from other city stores without significantly expanding the market. Additionally, in their study, Professor Hicks, et al, make one point crystal clear, and that is Walmart’s, self-admitted, detrimental impact its incoming namesake “Super Store” will have on other “big-box” entities in the vicinity, namely, the Marsh and the Target Superstore – within 1/2 mile of each other. I’m sure the residents of Zionsville and surrounds would love to have abandoned “big box” stores here as are prominently seen on Michigan Road south of 86th Street!

To the short-sighted, opening a “big box” Walmart Super Store seems an obvious benefit – increased property taxes, sales taxes, new jobs and happy shoppers buying at bargain prices. The fact is it mainly reallocates where existing income is spent. Its size destroys community character, it creates traffic problems and urban sprawl, and it leaves behind ugly, unused hulks as business strategies shift. Certainly, we all want development but development that contributes to enhancing the community.

Yes, Walmart may provide tax revenues, but authorities argue that the costs of municipal services outweigh the taxes received. When smaller stores are forced out of business, their tax revenues are lost and existing infrastructure is abandoned. Ultimately, these tax dollars are simply transferred from dollars spent at smaller retailers to dollars spent at Walmart. Other businesses such as banks and local newspapers also suffer as many of the services they had provided are no longer needed. Sales from local retailers that were once recycled in the community are now sent to Walmart’s corporate headquarters out of state.

When Walmart forces out competitors, the only jobs left may very well be at Walmart. The Federal Register reports take home pay is significantly below the poverty line, and as a result, Walmart employees are among the largest groups seeking public assistance. Must the taxpayers of Zionsville subsidize the employees of the largest company in the world?

Determining the impact on community character is a less quantitative issue that Zionsville residents must consider. Admittedly it is not the role of government to regulate competition in communities, but, in this case, any possible consumer benefits are offset by the Walmart monopolization – the loss of established downtown and surrounding businesses, sprawling development, abandoned downtown infrastructure, loss of green space, environmental problems, and decline in property values. This all equates to the loss of a community’s character.

Admittedly, large stores do have more to offer, but their domination of the local market concentrates excessive retail in one area, bringing with it an overall negative impact.

I suggest to Mr. Stemme that instead of using “mumbo-jumbo logic” to try to shift the focus from the proven harmful effects a Super Walmart Store would have on our community, he should consider the irrefutable facts as published by authoritative experts. There is no need for a Super Walmart Store at 10950 North Michigan St. when one exists a mere three miles away on 86th Street and Michigan Road.

Walmart has become one huge vending machine for China, delivering all the shiny things we desire. But as our country’s wealth leaves for China, I believe a little bit of America’s soul goes with it.

 

Respectfully,

 

Dr. Peter G. Furno

Zionsville 46077

 


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