The City Planning Board met yesterday and heard from supporters and foes of Wal-Mart’s plan to build a second store here in Great Falls. When I heard on the news this morning that the board voted AGAINST recommending the new store, I was stunned. Actually, the board had a tie vote of 4-4, but a majority is needed for a “yes” vote. But a NO vote? What on earth is going on here? And what the heck were the opponents of Wal-Mart trying to do – sabotage our community? We want jobs – we want development – we want choices – all of which Wal-Mart is prepared to bring to Great Falls. And the opponents fight this development because…why? For example, consider what a union leader said:
Sara Thody, the executive officer for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, said she does not oppose retail development on the East Side. She is, however, opposed to a second Wal-Mart store. “We do not need that in Great Falls,” she said.
Can anybody explain that logic? She wants retail development – Wal-Mart is giving retail development – and then she changes her mind and says we don’t need “that” in Great Falls. Huh?
And of course some opponents trotted out the usual crap by claiming that Wal-Mart doesn’t offer enough “high-paying” jobs, and a new Wal-Mart will hurt other businesses in Great Falls. Well, maybe it doesn’t offer jobs that pay enough according to critics, but to real people who want real money, a job at Wal-Mart might be a very good thing. Heck, if critics want to use the “low wages” argument, then why don’t they campaign against the fast-food restaurants in town? We have four McDonald’s, and I doubt that any of them offer “high-paying” jobs; they simply offer jobs to people who want them, and no one is forced to work there OR to eat there. It’s called free-enterprise, and it works. And arguing that Wal-Mart will destroy other businesses is just nuts: when the existing store was built over on the NW side of town, was there some sort of economic devastation that wiped out all local business in the immediate vicinity?
Now, do I shop at Wal-Mart? Not very often; the lure of low prices isn’t enough to get me to fight the crowded parking lot, the usually long lines, and the sheer size of the place when all I need is some milk, meat, and cat food. But those features aren’t enough to label the company “evil,” or make me want to shut it down, or prevent it from growing. So while I am hardly a huge supporter of Wal-Mart, I am a huge supporter of free-enterprise, our community, and giving consumers as much choice as possible. And that’s what it’s all about: choice. Let Wal-Mart come to Great Falls, and if you don’t like Wal-Mart, then you don’t have to shop there. But please don’t deny Great Falls the opportunity to grow and demonstrate to other businesses that we welcome them, too.