For more than two decades, Walmart stores have partnered with cities, counties, ODOT and Oregonians to bring customer choice to communities around the state.

In mid-September we were pleased to announce our hopes to bring a new Walmart to Warrenton that will help people save money and live better.

The Warrenton Walmart will offer a full-service grocery department, direct access to $4 generic prescriptions, and the more than 60 traditional departments featured in all of our stores. We believe we are presenting the North Coast with an ideal store in terms of size, orientation and merchandise and we will continue partnering hand-in-hand with city staff throughout the application process.

As our plans are under way, I wanted to address a couple statements from The Daily Astorian's recent editorial "Can local retailers survive Walmart?" The article accused Walmart of being disinterested in the local community, a claim that couldn't be farther from the truth.

Walmart considers itself a citizen of the communities we serve. We provide good jobs for people who need either full- or part-time work or management positions and we offer many opportunities for growth and promotion. More than 10,000 Oregonians are Walmart associates, with those working hourly schedules earning an average of $12.12 per hour. Many members of management in our company started as cashiers or clerks. The Warrenton Walmart could offer as many as 300 jobs, effectively keeping more dollars in the local area.

Walmart reaches outWalmart is involved with schools, youth programs, at food banks, as Special Olympics volunteers, at SOLV clean-up days, and this year we awarded 80 Oregon teachers with gift cards for classroom supplies through the Teacher Rewards program. These are just a few of the many programs in which we are involved throughout the state.

Last fall, Walmart committed $250,000 to the Oregon Food Bank Network and participates in the continuous Fresh Alliance food recovery program, donating close-dated meat, dairy and produce that would have otherwise been destroyed, every day. This program rescued and delivered 750,000 pounds of food from the shelves of our Oregon Walmart stores to the tables of struggling families and individuals since the beginning of the year. The Nyssa Community Food Pantry, one of many recipients, counts 5,762 pounds of food on their tables through these efforts.

Walmart associates come from all walks of life. They are invested in the places where they live, work and play just like the company they work for. Walmart stores traditionally award grants all year, as well as through the Wal-Mart Foundation State Giving Program. In total, Walmart and its foundation contributed $3.2 Million to Oregon nonprofit organizations during 2008.

Cities such as Medford and Eugene have had a Walmart presence for more than 15 years. With an influx of national retailers, as well as locally owned stores that carry specialty items - they also have shopping districts that continue to thrive.

The editorial that appeared in your paper made a point of mentioning the 21.1 million results that come up in a Google search of Walmart opposition, but failed to mention that a Google search of Walmart support yields 130 million results. However, we would argue that a better way of determining Walmart's interest in the local community is to look at what we've accomplished in the Oregon locations where we do business. The real story includes the support we've lent to education, hunger relief and other charitable causes, jobs we've maintained and added, the emphasis we've placed on volunteerism and the efforts we've made to run smarter, more energy-efficient and sustainable stores that provide locally grown organic produce choices far beyond the "Chinese-made goods" mentioned in this paper. In fact, Walmart is the largest purchaser of product manufactured in the U.S.

I would urge your readers to consider what Walmart can bring to the Warrenton community before dismissing our company, our people or our commitment to the communities in which we operate. We encourage anyone interested in learning more about how Walmart weaves into the fabric of local communities to visit our Web site (www.walmartstores. com/communitygiving). We look forward to an honest discussion with the people of Warrenton and believe we would make a great addition to the community.

Kal Patel is Wal-Mart Stores Inc. regional general manager - vice president for store operations in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Alaska and Hawaii.


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