Peterson: Supercenter would be a benefit to Moscow’s economyA little fact checking:
Steven Peterson says a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter may not be a sign of the apocalypse, as many people seem to believe.
The University of Idaho economist was hired by the Moscow Chamber of Commerce to research Wal-Mart and its potential economic effects on the region. He presented the results of his three-month study during a crowded Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Best Western University Inn on Wednesday.
“There has been so much misinformation swirling around the issue,” Peterson said. “Everyone has an opinion about Wal-Mart.”
Peterson tried to dispel a variety of myths about the large-scale retail business, addressing wages, taxes, benefits, competition, water issues and Moscow’s economy.
The Moscow Wal-Mart pays about 24 percent more than the average retail trade wage, at $22,006 or $10.58 an hour, and its average wage is higher than the local average supermarket wage of $19,040 per year, Peterson told attendees.
Peterson said the Moscow Wal-Mart pays higher than the average supermarket wage of all 50 states.
At $10.58 an hour, the wages are higher than the $10.25 per hour living wage ordinance passed by the Moscow City Council on Tuesday night.
Despite rumored bad working conditions at Wal-Mart, Peterson said people still seem to be flocking to the store for employment.
When Lewiston’s Wal-Mart opened in 1993, 3,500 people applied for 270 positions. Figures for the Moscow store weren’t available, but Peterson estimated interest to be about the same.
Peterson said people often receive incorrect information about Wal-Mart for a variety of reasons. When the average wage is compared with that of Microsoft or General Motors employees, or the facts are misunderstood or distorted, people end up with wrong information.
He said 75 percent of Wal-Mart employees are covered by the company’s health plan, and the 25 percent who aren’t are covered by their spouse’s insurance.
Peterson said instead of hurting small businesses on Main Street, a Wal-Mart Supercenter might have the opposite effect.
In addition to the goods Wal-Mart normally carries, a Supercenter offers groceries, tires and gas.
“Shoppers vote with their feet,” he said. “If big retailers aren’t here, they will travel to where they are.”
In response to Moscow’s debate over whether a stores like Wal-Mart suck up the limited water supply, Peterson said a Wal-Mart Supercenter uses less water than people might think.
Moscow’s Wal-Mart is responsible for about .38 percent of Moscow’s total water usage, he said.
He said a high-tech firm with 64 employees would use more water than a Wal-Mart Supercenter.
Those in attendance questioned some of Peterson’s findings.
“There is a lot of good information here, but did you find out anything negative about Wal-Mart?” asked Bill Parks, owner of Northwest River Supplies.
Parks said he supported development of the Supercenter on the west side to draw more business from Pullman.
Peterson said Wal-Mart spent $500,000 trying to locate on the Thompson property before the Council rejected its application.
“I think Wal-Mart made the right decision (to withdraw),” he said. “They would have had a hard time locating here.”
Moscow resident Janice Hess has seen instances on the East Coast where Wal-Mart has been predatory and shut down local businesses, but she thinks Moscow’s environment is different.
“It’s a different market here,” she said. “We don’t see busts or booms.”
She said even though she doesn’t like Wal-Mart, it’s hard for Moscow to live without it.
Moscow resident David Hall said Peterson’s report seemed pretty one-sided.
“He seemed to question why would we want to keep business from coming in; if a business fails, then we are left with a dark store and disruptions,” he said.
Bill Parks, owner of Northwest River Supply, said a large general purpose retail store could suck the life out of businesses not directly in competition. “A person wakes up with a certain number of dollars every morning, but if they buy a raft at Northwest River Supply, they won’t have that money to spend elsewhere, like the bike shop in town.”That sure doesn't sound like "support" of Wal-Mart to me.
Many of our local businesses have survived the large out-of-towners. But how many times must Moscow push them into the ring against outside money and morals?Like I said, there is no converting the jihadis. If a study is not completely negative about Wal-Mart, they will dismiss it and attack it.
All in all, a pretty poorly written article. I wonder if we both attended the same presentation.
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