Thursday, June 16, 2011

Walmart is Good for the Economy

My Dad lived his whole life and never set foot in a Walmart store. 

Educated as a city planner, my Dad took the dim view that Walmart had brought about the demise of downtowns and a host of other community development woes.  I think it must be mandatory, somehow, for planners to think that way.

Though I bought most of what my Dad said, I never bought his point of view on Walmart.

Walmart has been very good for the economy of the U.S. and Ohio. I'm proud to shop there for my family's grocery needs and more.

I'm also proud to have worked on the site attraction effort to bring a Walmart Food Distribution Center project to Ohio ten years ago.  That investment by Walmart ended up employing close to 1,000 people in Steubenville, Ohio.  Where would Steubenville, hard hit by decades of over-reliance on steel production and power generation, be today without those jobs?

Though I'd like to say my efforts alone were what brought Walmart, I think its clear Walmart's decision makers picked Steubenville, in part, as a chance to do something good for the economy.  They really did.

And Steubenville is a good example of how planners are wrong about Walmart's impact on downtowns.  Steubenville's downtown suffered the same fate of many other downtowns starting in the 1970's but Steubenville didn't get a Walmart in town until 2002. 

People's changing tastes killed downtowns, not Walmart.  Walmart simply adapted to society's demands and was far enough ahead of that demand in some places that it looked like Walmart was the cause.  They weren't.

Then, let's talk about inflation.  I think Walmart has done more to control prices in the economy in the past 25 years than the Fed has.

Yes, indeed, Walmart is good for the economy.

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