From Steve Tobia of Abingdon:
Last week Wal-Mart sent out bulk mail to residents in the Abingdon and Bel Air Zip codes. If you live in these areas you most likely received two Wal-Mart public relation brochures promoting a new store. They did not say they were building or introducing a new super center but rather they were “proposing” a new super center. What was more surprising was the brochure contained a postage paid return card soliciting our support and asking that we write letters and attend meetings on Wal-Mart’s behalf. Why do they need our support? This is not a done deal!
We all know brochures are typically decorated with pretty pictures and designed to tout the advantages a company has to offer. Wal-Mart’s brochures were no different as they advertised the advantages a new Bel Air super center would offer our community. The advantages listed were:
Jobs. Wal-Mart states a new super center will bring approximately 100 new jobs in addition to those already at the Constant Friendship store. This is a slight exaggeration. On Wal-Mart’s website it indicates that a Constant Friendship size store employs 225 people and a super center employs 300 which would be an increase of 75 mostly part time positions. Now subtract the number of jobs local merchants will eliminate because of lost business. The resulting number will be the employment benefit a new Wal-Mart super center will add to Harford County.
Tax Revenue. The brochure states that the new Wal-Mart will pay thousands of dollars a year more in taxes to the county. Not tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars but thousands of dollars a year? That is not a lot of money considering the size of this new store and the fact that it will cost the taxpayer millions of dollars for the road improvements necessary to accommodate this new store.
Family Savings. The brochure indicates that an independent study found the average household will save approximately $3100 per year shopping at Wal-Mart. Who are they comparing this savings to? Certainly not other discount stores in the area. In addition, the non-consumable items sold at a new Wal-Mart would be no cheaper than the items sold at their Constant Friendship store. If Wal-Mart converted their existing store to a grocery selling super center, as our county executive and the people of Abingdon and Bel Air have requested and that the people of Edgewood would surely enjoy the convenience of, there would be no consumable or non-consumable pricing advantage to building a new store at the proposed Plumtree site.
Leading the Industry in Green Initiatives. It is respectable that both individuals and corporations are striving to be more environmentally conscious. In our quest to do so, we often overstate the environmental benefit. For example, Wal-Mart says in addition to using LED lighting which is more efficient, they will be installing sensor –activated low flow faucets. Wow! That is quite an initiative. How much environmental benefit should we expect from sensor-activated faucets installed in the stores public restrooms, employee’s restrooms and the sink in the break room. How many people even use restrooms at big box stores? The question we should be asking Wal-Mart is, “How many millions of gallons of runoff water will drain from the roof of their 185,000 sq. ft. building. And how many millions of gallons of oil tainted water will run off of their 250,000 sq. ft. parking lot that will end up in drainage ponds and ultimately the ground or bay. Is abandoning one store only to build another considered a green initiative? ….Hardly.
I hope those who have or contemplate returning Wal-Mart’s postage paid card recognize that an expanded and renovated store at Constant Friendship will provide all of the same benefits that a new store will provide without nearly the environmental impact or traffic congestion issues. I thought twice before I dropped my card in the mailbox. On it I wrote in big bold letters, “NO BEL AIR WALMART.”