Monday, November 21, 2005

The Wal-Martization of Mt. Pleasant: Can It Be Stopped?

Maybe we all should have been reading the Morning Sun on May 22, because a few times a year the local rag actually does have something important to say. Although Rick Mills rarely agrees with us on anything, the whole concept of secret deals and behind the scenes maneuverings to “improve” our economic development is highly questionable in a real democracy, not to mention downright patronizing – as if citizens can’t possibly know what kind of economic development is best for them.

If you didn’t get to see the Wal-Mart movie at Park Auditorium last Tuesday, you missed the best movie of the Democracy Film Series. A standing room only crowd approaching 200 people packed the 7 p.m. showing even though there were numerous other things going on in the community that night.

Wal-Mart’s plans for Mt. Pleasant apparently now include not only a huge new super center around the corner from the existing Mt. Pleasant store, but a new Sam’s Club and new huge warehouse/distribution center. One of the major points of the movie is that Wal-Mart has been able to achieve it’s low cost goals by exploiting other people both locally and internationally and by having taxpayers subsidize its operations. It also uses predatory pricing practices to run opposition out of businesses and then raises prices after the competition has been vanquished in a community.

Do we really want or need more of Wal-Mart in our community? One could readily argue that if any community needs more jobs our adjacent counties to the north, south and west of us do. Thanks to stable job situation at the casino, on campus and other major employers, Isabella County’s unemployment rate is just about 3% while our neighboring counties are more than 7%. In Gratiot County there is already an underused Interstate access south of Alma formerly crowded with oil tankers from the now demolished Total refinery. There is also plenty of open land there where a Wal-Mart distribution center could be accommodated without Michigan taxpayers chipping in for a new Interstate access ramp.

Our Republican dominated legislature apparently sees nothing wrong with taxpayer subsidies to Wal-Mart, but now there is a growing movement nationwide to at least bring some of the worst aspects of Wal-Mart under some control.

What, if anything, can we do about it? Is it too late? Stay tuned.

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