Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Blockbuster Economic Impact Study Presented in Moscow Today

Several months ago, U of I Research Economist Dr. Steve Peterson was commissioned by the Moscow Chamber of Commerce back in April to conduct an economic impact study of Wal-Mart on the region. Dr. Peterson has conducted several such studies for the Chamber in the past, including the economic impacts of U of I, etc.

His findings were presented today at a Chamber lunch forum titled "Moscow at a Tipping Point: An Economic Analysis of the Retail Trade Sector, the Local Economy, and the Effects of Locating a Super Wal-Mart in the Moscow, Idaho Regional Economy." I had the opportunity to attend, and it was DYNAMITE! Peterson's findings agree with two other economic impact studies of Wal-Mart conducted by Johnson Gardner and CLUE.

Peterson debunked 12 different local myths about Wal-Mart with hard facts. I will post his PowerPoint presentation as soon as I get it, as well as the executive summary and the full study.

The conclusions Peterson reached about Pullman were sobering, and further reinforced how desperately we need economic growth in general and Wal-Mart in particular.

Peterson used Pullman as an example of what goes wrong when you try to limit growth in a town, specifically the fallout from the decisions reached by local officials in the mid-Seventies to run the Palouse Mall out of town and to implement the current rural housing ordinance that calls for a three-year moratorium on farming prior to farm land being sold. The hope was that by doing so, Pullman would build up. Peterson said the consequences of those decisions have been just the opposite and devastating to Pullman and Whitman County,while giving numbers to support his assertions. It took two to three decades to see the effects.

I didn't realize this, but Whitman County still has less population now than it did in 1974. Pullman/Whitman County,USED to be the retail hub of the Palouse. Since 1977, retail jobs have grown 30% in Whitman County versus 153%i n Latah County. Service industry jobs in Whitman County have grown 70% versus 222% in Latah County, even though Pullman and Whitman County have large populations than Moscow and Latah County.

2,300 people live in Latah County and work in Pullman versus 978 who live in Whitman County and work in Moscow.

Pullman had a net sales leakage of approximately $99.5 MILLION from all sources, while rural Whitman County lost a net of $62.9 MILLION from all sources. In total, Whitman County had a net loss of $158.4 MILLION in 2004. Pullman retail trade per household of $16,846 is only 47% of Moscow's $36,205. Pullman produces fewer retail sales than Clarkston, a town less than one-third the size of Pullman.

So, the result of all the business-unfriendly policies in the past has been that we have driven new homes and businesses over the state line. In fact, Peterson said, If it were not for Schweitzer Engineering Labs, both the city of Pullman and Whitman County would likely be facing negative population, jobs, and income losses. Because of the underdeveloped retail trade, service, and housing sector in Pullman, Moscow may be benefitting as much from the growth of SEL as Pullman.

DEMAND THAT PARD DROP ITS APPEAL NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Daily News had a big presence at the forum, including publisher Nathan Alford, City Editor Doug Bauer, and reporter Omie Drawhorn. It will be interesting to see how this gets reported. The forum was well attended, almost standing room only, and no doubt will start much needed discussion of the real facts about Wal-Mart in the community.

It was great meeting folks like Paul Kimmell, the Executive Director of the Moscow Chamber of Commerce, Greater Moscow Alliance member Dan Carscallen, and Moscow City Planner Joel Plakson. It was worth it all to watch No Super Wal-Mart loudmouth Peggy Jenkins sputter questions to try and trip up Peterson and watch the sheer outrage and disbelief on her face. Unfortunately, no matter how much truth and facts come out, the opposition will never accept it. That's why hatred of Wal-Mart is more akin to a religious cult than a "grassroots" movement.

There is enough good stuff in Peterson's report to blog about for weeks, and I will.

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