The megastore represents economic transformation of the worst sortThe town of Hood River's rejection of a giant Wal-Mart store is heartening to Oregonians who recognize that Wal-Mart kills communities. Hood River already has a 72,000 square foot Wal-Mart. The chain discounter had asked to build a second store of 186,000 square feet.

The Hood River County Commission turned down Wal-Mart's plans Jan. 5.

A similar conflict is brewing in Jackson County, where Wal-Mart wants to build two supercenters of 200,000-square-feet each, adding a full-size grocery store.

Local business consultant Wendy Siporen told Oregon Business magazine she opposes the store because of "the massive size, increased traffic, the siting of one store beside prized waterway Bear Creek and Wal-Mart's disinterest in the community."

Wal-Mart has generated national anxiety, because it has the potential to transform local economies in ways that destroy the fabric that holds communities together. Wal-Mart has the ability to undercut the prices of retailers at all levels, including the likes of Safeway and Albertson's. The chain's employees largely earn low wages and have no health care benefits, which means the community must support them. And Wal-Mart makes no contribution to the lifeblood of the community.

"In the worst case, Wal-Mart is a firehose that drains the local economy of cash," said Bruce Laird, an economic development specialist with the Oregon Department of Economic Development.

In other words, the decision to allow Wal-Mart into a community is a decision to transform that community in a negative fashion.

Our hat is off to the Hood River County Commission, and we wish Jackson County well in its attempt to fend off Wal-Mart expansion. Anyone who thinks that adding Wal-Mart to their city or county is traditional economic development is fooling themselves. It is economic transformation of the worst sort.


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